Looks like I was right last week; I did want something like this for the SCG Standard Open in Detroit this weekend:
This deck was everything I could possibly want in this format. It was the fair cousin of Faeries and Caw-Blade. Thanks Michael Jacob: you made a good one. I ended up playing 74/75 the same as him this past weekend, with the one slot difference being my third Celestial Purge to his Mikaeus, the Lunarch. I wasn't sold on wanting a pump effect like Intangible Virtue or Mikaeus, so I played a Purge in order to stomp Zombies even harder than I should. Obviously, despite all this I managed to lose to it, but I can't blame the deck for that one. Variance happens, and it makes up for all the times I didn't get Bonfire of the Damned miracled in the Swiss rounds.
Some comments on the list:
This card is actively bad against decks with Bonfire of the Damned, which should be a large percentage of the decks that aren't Delver. In Seachrome Coast mirrors, the card is clutch. Two is a fine starting point; I might cut a Mana Leak for the third as the mirror and Solar Flare will increase in popularity.
For the record, against Bonfire Delver decks it's still fine. Yes, that is a thing.
This card is very average. It does some stuff, but it gets boarded out a ton. It definitely deserves a slot just for curve reasons and the power with Snapcaster Mage, but whether you want two or three copies is up for debate.
The Cantrip Split
Thought Scour is very good, especially if you are adding more Lingering Souls. Turn 2 flashback on that card is actively unfair. Ponder is the best or second best card in the deck. Forbidden Alchemy is very important in the Darkslick Shores mirrors, where games go super deep and it's all about grinding harder.
Gitaxian Probe, on the other hand, is just chilling. It isn't great against anything, but at the worst it cycles. I boarded it out against every non-blue deck, which leads me to believe it is better off as a second Forbidden Alchemy since that card is better there and would also get boarded out everywhere else.
The Removal Split
1 Sun Titan, 1 Gideon Jura
The mana felt half a white source short for Gideon, but outside of that he was fine. I would run two Sun Titans main in the future and put Gideon in the board, but that is mostly due to the mana issue. The alternatives are just suck it up and play it as is (reasonable) or cut a Cavern of Souls or Drowned Catacombs for an Isolated Chapel, which will actually always come into play tapped. Of these three, the third sounds much less appealing to me.
After playing against three control decks, I wanted another Dissipate in the board. I have no idea where to fit it, but I want it.
Jace, Memory Adept was the man. He felt generally unbeatable in control "mirrors." I also got to mill someone out, so bonus points there.
Day of Judgment is solely for Birds of Paradise decks and maybe Wolf Run Ramp, but I'm unsure on that last one. It's awkward because half the games against G/R Aggro and Pod you are trying to make a million Golem tokens, but you can play around your own cards if necessary.
As for my matches, they were reasonably straightforward.
I beat up on three Pod decks. I lost two games on the draw, one where he ripped a Green Sun's Zenith for a Wolfir Silverheart I wasn't setting up to beat and another where I got Acidic Slimed twice on his turn 5. On the play the matchup felt like a joke, especially if you Gut Shot their Birds of Paradise. You actually just out board advantage them with 3/3 tokens and 3/4 Angels.
I played against four control decks and ended up 3-1: one ~70-card mirror against Brian DeMars, two true Solar Flare decks, and the Grixis deck in the Top 8. In the actual mirror it's all about pressing board advantage and postboard Nihil Spellbombs, but against real control it's much more about keeping up on cards using Snapcaster Mage as Silvergill Adept. The Flare deck I lost to beat me with Unburial Rites because I opted to use a Nihil Spellbomb early on a Lingering Souls when I knew he had no action and he ripped a second. I can't say I should have waited as I would have easily clocked what I knew he had with my two Lingering Souls and counters, but it was an option.
I played Zombies twice and went 1-1, but the second match on camera was a loose definition of "played." You should be fine against them due to Snapcaster Mage + Celestial Purge. Not much to say here; if they have the nuts and get you it happens, but otherwise your deck is five blanks, 23 lands, and 32 amazing cards against them game 1 and you board out the five blanks. Just remember, Blood Artist is much more threatening than you would ever expect.
I got paired up against Wolf Run Ramp fairly deep into the event, and the matchup seemed fairly easy. I ended up going over the top of a resolved Primeval Titan with double Phantasmal Image plus Sun Titan, and it seems very easy to do. I didn't like this plan out of normal Delver, but when you have access to actual Doom Blades over Vapor Snags and Dismembers it seems easy to make your own Titans, kill theirs, and end up ahead on the exchange after some Ghost Quarter activations. Just remember: it's better to attack their mana than Titans with counters usually. This is both due to Cavern of Souls and because of the fact you can win the heads up fight of Titans.
My last match was against a non-traditional Delver list featuring Bonfire of the Damned, but I've been told by both Mike and Chris Andersen that normal Delver is very easy for you, boasting some obscene match win stats to back it up. Your cards just trump theirs. You have Images and Lingering Souls to beat Geist, Doom Blades for their Angels and Delvers where they have almost no hard removal, and you have the over the top end game of Sun Titan where they have nothing. While Chris lost to it in Top 4, his opponent had to have actual everything in order to win.
As for the last real matchup, G/R Aggro, I have no idea how it plays out. The super streamlined kbr3 list (see below) seems scary, but as they move away from four Bonfire their deck just becomes a ton of bricks. Sword of War and Peace is also scary, but their other cards all do nothing against a Blade Splicer and a Doom Blade. I would assume you are favored, but miracles can still happen.
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Borderland Ranger
- 4 Huntmaster of the Fells
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 4 Strangleroot Geist
- 3 Wolfir Silverheart
- 1 Thrun, the Last Troll
If I had to play a Standard event tomorrow, I would snap play this deck again. Beyond that, there's not much to say about the deck. You can be aggro, you can be control: it's all up to what is right at the time.
Really. What a shocker. I bet you were expecting Nourishing Lich.
Notable Changes in the Past Seven Days (aka All of Them)
Bryant Cook, the creator of this deck, has currently moved towards a couple Gitaxian Probes maindeck over the second Ad Nauseam and a Duress. I personally think that naturally drawing Ad Nauseam is strong enough that I want the second copy, but I wouldn't be opposed to one.
This was a Virtue's Ruin in my SCG Invitational list, but you really need a way to kill Thalia that doesn't cost a million mana.
All the relevant creatures are white (Gaddock Teeg, Aven Mindcensor, Thalia, etc.). The only thing Deathmark won't kill is Iona, as they will always name black or you will just kill them. Silent Departure dodges this, but realistically no one has Iona as Griselbrand is approximately as good at killing Storm on the spot. Given the choice of kill or bounce, kill came out ahead, especially when you can pay with Dark Ritual mana under a Teeg.
Grapeshot is basically only for showboating people. Bryant swears he kills things with it, but I don't believe him. Personally, all my opponents just scoop to the obvious Tendrils kill and I rarely play versus someone who seriously deserves you counting to 20, so I've never gotten any value from the slot. Admittedly, I do have a super tilting foil Grapeshot that was chewed on by ferrets, so it may be reappearing in the future.
As for Bribery, how much bigger can you showboat than killing them with their own Griselbrand? Realistically, if you have 3UU after resolving a Burning Wish into no counters often Diminishing Returns or Ill-Gotten Gains should be enough to kill them, but this is a bit more of a lock to do so. It's marginally worth having, but I'm still unsure if it's legitimate or a joke slot. And by that, I really mean I never got to do it to anyone so it likely stays in.
Past in Flames was completely redundant. Most of the time I had a graveyard kill that I needed to get back Lion's Eye Diamonds to reach the necessary mana count, so Ill-Gotten Gains performed miles better. Past in Flames is good against decks with counters and discard but no clock as you can Wish for it and let it chill in your graveyard until you hit them mana to kill them with it, but that never happens in my version of reality. They always just have a Batterskull or Tarmogoyf to bring the pain and you don't have time to set up gigantic graveyards featuring half of your sorcery speed Rituals.
Reanimate actually adds a completely new angle. I first saw the tech in Jason Golembiewski's sideboard from last weekend at the SCG Legacy Open in Indianapolis, where he ironically switched from TES to Belcher. While Reanimate is good at catching people when they Careful Study on one, it's significantly better in TES in conjunction with Orim's Chant or Silence. Often in the Reanimator matchup you find yourself aggressively Time Walking them with these cards once they drop a creature into their graveyard, as beating a Griselbrand is not realistic. This gives you a one-turn window to go off, and mana can get tight. Reanimate not only lets you do so for three mana, but it prevents them from making a dude the next turn.
And before you ask, yes I did do this to someone. Details to follow.
This is an option only for the Griselbrand decks, as they actually have no removal for it and you can Show and Tell it into play. I just wasn't convinced I wanted or needed the disruption upgrade enough to work the board slots out. Plus there were all these awesome sideboard cards for those matchups already that I would have had to cut.
As for the actual event, I couldn't actually tell if I was just running very well at the SCG Legacy Open in Columbus a couple weeks ago or very badly in Detroit, but I only had one first turn kill the entire event as opposed to an ~20% turn 1 rate three weeks ago.
As usual, I crushed all my non-Force of Will opponents. I only lost two matches in those games: one where I missed on Diminishing Returns with untapped Underground Sea and a red mana floating (~60% to kill) while his new seven also had Thalia, and the other on the draw against Dredge. The only notable games in these matches were one against Doomsday and one against Dredge.
The Doomsday game my opponent decided to Silence me when I was playing conservatively and got Silenced back into me killing him on my turn. In Silence Storm mirrors, it's all about the Duresses to take their copies of Silence, trading Silences when you have the second to get them, killing them on turn 1 or if they tap out to cantrip early, or getting to a scenario where they let a single Ritual resolve and you Ad Nauseam with a mana up to Silence them on their turn. Basically, if you start to play anything resembling a game of Magic, that card will take over.
Against Dredge (piloted by recently returned Detroit native and Belcher savant Ben Perry), we played a cripple fight game 1 where his mulligan hand only found its dredge card on the last draw effect and my cantrips bricked as I was played for the aggressive sequencing to maximize the odds of killing him immediately as opposed to the conservative one where I get to shuffle Brainstorm with Ponder. The game came down to some tight Cabal Therapy calls and Ichorid grinds (your opponent has Burning Wish, Infernal Tutor in hand and two lands plus Lion's Eye Diamond in play; what do you take?) leaving me on the last turn ripping a mana source to Ad Nauseam at eight life, three storm, no mana floating, and having used my land drop. Two Chrome Moxes, a Dark Ritual, two Silences, an Infernal Tutor, and a Lion's Eye Diamond later I won at two life. It was by far the most fun and interactive Dredge versus Storm game I have ever played.
As for the Force of Will matchups, both my losses came against Counterbalance decks. All four games I was facing down turn 2 Counterbalance backed by Force of Will, a stacked top of library, or both. Only one of the games did I have the ability to win on turn 1, and it was only a "win" in the sense I could make ten Goblins into an open blue mana against a deck I knew had Terminus, Spell Pierce, and Spell Snare. I instead opted to go off turn 2 with Silence backup and was punished.
I probably should have mulliganed my Brainstorm-based hand one of the games, so that one is clearly on me, and I possibly could have set up a bit better for the in hand Tendrils going late one game and baited him into countering the wrong things so I could win, but that is unlikely as my opponent was also a long-time Tendrils player, had enough counters to cut me off mana, and had a clock in play. In this matchup you need very aggressive hands, and mine weren't up to par while my opponents' hands were. The information off a Gitaxian Probe seems extremely useful here, as unlike Duress you don't have to pay a mana to see if you want to go for it or not only for them to Brainstorm in response and hide their real cards.
My win against Force of Will was against Reanimator. He died on turn 2 game 1, I died early game 2, but game 3 was the kicker. After the initial dust settled I found myself with two Infernal Tutors, two Silences, a Burning Wish, and a Lion's Eye Diamond with three lands to his no creatures in graveyard by relatively sizable hand. One line would be to Infernal Tutor for another Diamond and set up to kill next turn, but that line loses to a Daze or Force of Will. I opted to play it safe and kept passing after playing Diamond to protect it from a Thoughtseize. If I drew another mana source he died with Silence backup. I never did, but he opted to Thoughtseize himself with three cards in hand. I Silenced in response, he binned a Griselbrand revealing no counters, and I got to live the dream. My Reanimate brought me to eight, I drew seven non-lethal cards, and passed with Silence up and a Griselbrand I didn't own in play. I got another turn, and the win was easy from there.
For those interested in playing the deck in the future, here's the five-minute primer for current Legacy. For those interested in even less reading, here's the fifteen-second one:
Be aggressive. Draw lots of turn 1 wins. Learn to count to seven mana. Inquisition and Chain are better disruption when they aren't Force of Will or combo decks. If they have Force of Will, -1 Ponder if you want to be fast or -1 Chrome Mox if you want to grind, rarely both. Either way +1 Inquisition.
Non-Counterbalance Blue Decks
You are either trying to set up enough backup to kill through their counters or trying to catch them tapping out early and get them. If you have the kill early, consider a few things:
Do I beat a Daze by waiting?
What other counters do they get access to if I wait and they untap?
Am I actually cantripping into interaction or Wishing for Thoughtseize, or am I just hoping to rip out?
If it doesn't look like things are getting better going long, spin the wheel. Getting an exact feel for this is difficult, but the general rule is that if the question is, "Force or no?" and your answer isn't, "Give me one more turn and I beat a Force regardless," the right answer is, "Storm count is one."
Some quick notes: If you are on the draw versus Stoneblade, it takes fourteen Goblins to beat Stoneforge Mystic into Batterskull assuming they have nothing else and cast the Mystic the turn after you cast Empty the Warrens (thirteen on first swing after they block one, twelve get through on the second swing and they gain four life for a total of 21 damage).
You can cast an Ad Nauseam on their end step to pull a counter, then untap your lands and go off again.
Mana is better versus RUG; cards versus W/U. You don't want more than nine disruption as you need cards in hand to win. If they are W/U and have Ethersworn Canonist or something silly that is Chainable game 2, I would board two Chains for the two above cards. Realistically, game 3 on the play you might just kill them before casting Canonist is an option.
Counterbalance Blue Decks
Keep hands that can Duress their Counterbalance and then end the game soon or kill them before it lands. Then do these things. Beating an active Counterbalance-Top is possible but more complicated than I'm willing to talk about here given how rarely it happens. If they have a blind Counterbalance, bait flips and see if their top card lets you go off. Smart players slow roll their flips for what matters.
Draw hands that kill them on turn 1.
Kill them before they can cast Thalia, or Silence them the turn they can do so and kill them the next turn. Remember, Burning Wish for Deathmark costs five mana post-Thalia, so an extra Wish on turn 2 without a kill might be better off as a Deathmark if they don't have Mother of Runes. Key word is extra though.
Games 2 and 3 you have real disruption. Discard their real cards; kill them easily. Yawn.
You can easily beat Emrakul. You can't easily beat Griselbrand. Each draw seven they get is about a coin flip to find a Force of Will (a bit less on the first one, a bit more on the next ones). Kill them before it resolves, or Duress them to prevent this from happening. Notice how Duress and Silence can't be hit by Misdirection.
Against Reanimator, if they Entomb or Careful Study a guy into graveyard you are often better off Silencing them the next time they can cast a Reanimation spell so that you still have a turn. The exception is if you can let them Griselbrand then go off next turn with Silence backup and the ability to pay for Dazes on it. The odds on them hitting two Force of Wills in fourteen cards is only about 30%. With seven cards (aka if they cast Reanimate), it is under 10%. The exception to this exception (aka when you do Silence them when you can wait and pay for Dazes) is if you can go off for sure the next turn through them having a Force of Will in their current hand but Griselbrand would give them a chance to mise enough hate to win.
If a Reanimator deck has Iona for you, congrats: they did it. If Sneak and Show has Chalice of the Void, the same holds true.
Wish them good luck. They need it.
I don't even know if this is right, but it really doesn't matter. They are a slower combo deck with no disruption.
I unfortunately won't be able to make it to Grand Prix Atlanta this upcoming weekend, but I would definitely be playing TES if I could. The deck is that powerful, and in a more open metagame the free wins you get are huge.
If you have any questions about other card choices, matchups, or sideboarding for either deck, ask in the comments or feel free to shoot me a message on Facebook. Just follow the GerryT rule: when you ask about things, try to tell me what you think is right and why. This is both because it helps you start figuring these things out for future decks and because I could easily be wrong and you right.
-Slow's Barbeque for being delicious.
-Michigan in general for such a great event after seven years without one.
-My opponents for putting up with my enthusiasm whenever they didn't miracle Bonfire or whenever I put their Griselbrand into play.
-Aaron "Swindy/Swirly-Foot" Swerdlow-Freed for having a savagely awesome combo cube to Winston Draft.
-My hands in the semifinals.
-Me for playing so badly in the quarterfinals but still winning.
-Dan Musser and Brian Hockey for being giant jerks with Counterbalance on turn 2.
-Chris Andersen and Jon Johnson for not playing against me when I was 4-1 in Legacy.