Posted on February 28th, 2014
Before getting to the events of this past weekend, I had recently been fooling around with a BUG deck in Standard, trying furiously to get it to work. It played Ashiok, Nightveil Specter, Sylvan Caryatid and Polukranos, to name a few cards. It was fun the first week, then I found the flaws with the deck with certain match-ups. Now I’m not sure if it was mental fatigue, or just the deck dragging me down, but I wasn’t enjoying Standard as much as I was a month earlier. I had to do something about it and the answer was sleeving up Sphinx’s Revelation again.
I went through a few of the recent decklists from SCG Opens, Magic Online dailies and other events and found a few that piqued my interest. I had been playing Esper pretty much since Theros came out and I had managed to sneak in a Mutavault (which was insane), so with Temple of Enlightenment being printed, I was leaning towards playing straight U/W with Mutavaults. After scouring through the lists I could find, I ended up making my own changes and trying out this list:
4 Temple of Enlightenment
4 Hallowed Fountain
1 Azorius Guildgate
4 Detention Sphere
4 Sphinx’s Revelation
4 Supreme Verdict
3 Jace, Architect of Thought
3 Azorius Charm
3 Last Breath
2 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
1 Fated Retribution
1 Elixir of Immortality
3 Fiendslayer Paladin
2 Revoke Existence
2 Pithing Needle
2 Blind Obedience
1 Jace, Memory Adept
I could go over each card, but that’s been done a thousand times before. I will however highlight a few of my choices.
Having so many basic lands allows you to play more permission since you don’t have to take two damage on turns 2 or 3 to represent it. Since this deck is straight blue/white, Stormbreath Dragon and planeswalkers are a bigger problem than before, as the deck doesn’t have access to Hero’s Downfall. People still don’t seem to respect Syncopate, I’ve gotten multiple people trying to play their Courser of Kruphix before playing their 4th mana source and it is real nice.
3 Jace, Architect of Thought
With the format shifting more towards R/G Monsters, Mono-Black and other control decks, I feel like three Jaces is the right number. Playing four Dissolves and two Syncopates means you have to make concessions somewhere and playing Fated Retribution makes cutting Jace more sensible. He’s not the same pillar of the deck he once was, but that could certainly change given the evolution of the format.
3 Last Breath
3 Azorius Charm
You do have to concede cards against the aggressive match-ups, and this seemed like the best split. Last Breath hits so many relevant targets, it was truly an all-star. A short list of the staples it hits include Pack Rat, Nightveil Specter, Courser of Kruphix, Elvish Mystic as well as generic dumb Red men. The card can also be very tricky, letting you take two less when they play Gray Merchant of Asphodel, gaining 4 life off of a Mutavault or Soldier token as well as saving your Soldier tokens from Bile Blight.
You pretty much sideboard out Azorius Charm in every match-up, but this card is really good. I had fallen off the wagon momentarily, but I’ve fastened my seatbelt again. All three modes of this card are excellent and I’d play four if I somehow had the room.
Mutavault doesn’t really need much of an explanation, but I just wanted to point out that you actually win probably close to 35-40% of your games by attacking with them. Otherwise, they save you from big meaty creatures and the fearsome Mistcutter Hydra.
1 Fated Retribution
As soon as you play your seventh land and pass, this becomes a real dilemma for them. It is probably the single best card you have against G/R Monsters as it does exactly what you need it to do. This card is incredible and I am thinking of playing a second one in the sideboard.
2 Blind Obedience
The best card in the 75, this card can win games for you in so many ways. R/G Monsters plays both Stormbreath Dragon and Mistcutter Hydra, the latter of which you cannot counter. Their deck plays no burn outside of Destructive Revelry, so when you are at 3, you don’t have to worry about randomly dying to a haster if you can keep permission up to protect this. This card has been so good that I’ve been considering playing three, your match-up percentage versus R/G Monsters probably shifts by about 30% whether you have this card or not.
On to the tournament report, I kept a lot of notes, so apologies for possibly going to much into detail with these games and creating something that is too long to read!
This weekend was packed full of events, starting with FNM at The Comic Hunter, followed by a GPT Montreal at Game On! in Summerside with a guaranteed large payout and then ending with the Mana Deprived Super Series 2.5k in Halifax. I sleeved up the deck for FNM, going 3-1, only losing a match where I literally did not play a land on turn three in three consecutive games. I was feeling good about the deck and excited to play in these tournaments. I didn’t sleep much, but this was a normal thing for myself. It was time to win two byes for GP Montreal.
Kevin Zhang playing R/G Monsters
I kept a hand in the first game that did not have any sources of blue, but the cards needed to win against most match-ups, Supreme Verdict, Detention Sphere, Last Breath, 2 Plains and a Mutavault. Kevin mulliganed and came out of the gates with Courser into Polukranos and never let up. I managed to live through a big attack of his by blocking with Mutavault and casting Last Breath on it, but I was too far back.
The second game saw my life total never going below 17, and winning in short order afterwards with Elspeth. In game three, he went to 18 on turn one to play an Elvish Mystic and then a Courser on turn 2, revealing Stomping Ground. He then played a Temple of Abandon before playing Domri Rade on turn 3, which I dealt with using Detention Sphere and then I got to Supreme Verdict his freshly played Stormbreath Dragon along with his other creatures, at a healthy 12 life. After exiling the Xenagos, God of Revels he played on the next turn with Revoke Existence, he played another on turn 6, but I was able to answer with Elspeth, Sun’s Champion creating blockers and hoping to dodge Ghor-Clan Rampager and Stormbreath Dragon. He played a Domri Rade and then a Mistcutter Hydra for 3 and sent it into the red zone. I immediately picked up a token to block, but realized he forgot the Xenagos trigger and I capitalized on the mistake by trading with all three of my Soldier tokens.
Elspeth did a lot of heavy lifting creating blockers, but eventually died at the hands of my own Fated Retribution when a Stormbreath Dragon was going to kill it regardless. He ran out of gas and kept one card in hand… I looked at my notepad and noticed I had written down Stomping Ground. I looked at his lands and only saw one Stomping Ground and also realized via my notepad that he started at 18 (I hadn’t even written 20 by the time he had played it), so I knew he had no action. My second Elspeth secured victory a few turns later.
Jeremy Daley playing Jund
I had played versus Jeremy at the PTQ in round 2 and he was quick to remind about how much he hated Blood Baron of Vizkopa. I won that game by playing a Blood Baron off the top on turn 5 after he Thoughtseized my lone Blood Baron on turn 4.
In game one, I took 10 points of damage off a single attack aided by Ghor-Clan Rampager and reset the board afterwards with Supreme Verdict. I answered his next few threats before playing a Sphinx’s Revelation for four into Elspeth and winning a few turns later.
He kicked off game two with a turn 2 Sylvan Caryatid into a turn 3 Slaughter Games. My hand was going to be relying on the two Sphinx’s Revelations I had drawn, but to my extreme surprise, he named Blood Baron of Vizkopa. The rest of the game had myself fighting valiantly against his seemingly never-ending source of creatures, but after wiping the board with Fated Retribution, I was able to cast a Blind Obedience followed by a Sphinx’s Revelation for five. I never drew Elspeth, but I was able to whittle him down using Mutavault and the Extort triggers from Blind Obedience.
Gage Milligan playing R/G Monsters
Game one was a blow-out in my favour. I dropped to 14 at one point before casting a Sphinx’s Revelation for six bringing me back to 20 and I never took any damage after that. He scooped up his cards at 29 life after I revealed Elspeth off of a Jace activation.
In game two, I managed to stay at a fairly high life total before going to 8 in a big attack. I reset the board with Supreme Verdict and stuck a Blind Obedience. He then played a Courser of Kruphix, which stayed on the board for a very long time but rarely hit lands, giving me complete information of what I had to play around. He did eventually deal with the Blind Obedience and hit me down to four, but after a Sphinx’s Revelation for six, I managed to reset the board again and play a second Blind Obedience. An attempted Sphinx’s Revelation for nine a few turns later drew a concession with him at 22 life.
Gabriel Dion playing Jund
Yet another turn 2 Courser of Kruphix. This was quickly becoming the theme of the tournament. He made a mistake a few turns later when he attacked an Elvish Mystic into my open Mutavault. My life total was as high as 25 before I had to deal with a Stormbreath Dragon. He hit me down to 13 with it and I cast an end of turn Sphinx’s Revelation for five. He then activated Stormbreath Dragon’s Monstrous ability on my upkeep and not during my draw step for ten damage, dropping me to 8. I cast a Divination on my turn and still failed to find an answer. I passed back to him and he attacked for seven putting me to 1 and I cast another Sphinx’s Revelation, this time for four. I found the Supreme Verdict I needed and after taking a hit from Mutavault down to 3, My Sphinx’s Revelation for eight found Elspeth and won the game afterwards.
He began game two by tanking on whether he wanted to mulligan or not, eventually opting to keep. He played a turn one Elvish Mystic and a turn two Caryatid off the Mystic, missing his second land drop. The Courser of Kruphix he played on turn 3 met my Syncopate and although he had a second land on turn four, I had a Dissolve for his second Courser. A Supreme Verdict on turn four crippled his mana and he played a Sylvan Caryatid on on his sixth turn, which I answered by playing Elspeth. I got two Elspeth activations before he found his third land, allowing him to Dreadbore my Elspeth and to use Golgari Charm to kill my Soldier tokens. I cast a Sphinx’s Revelation for five and then started pecking away with Mutavaults. I flooded pretty hard, but still had answers for the limited offence he was able to muster. I attacked him to two using my two Mutavaults and was feeling pretty good when he played Domri Rade with nothing else on the board. He revealed Scavenging Ooze and played it leaving one mana up… but I untapped and drew a Detention Sphere to seal it.
Richard Baird playing U/W Midrange
I’m calling it midrange even though I’m not entirely sure what to classify it as. I was the lone 4-0 who was paired down and as such, had to play. He kicked it off with turn 1 Soldier of the Pantheon into turn 2 Precinct Captain, which I had a Last Breath to deal with. A Supreme Verdict wiped the board clean and he answered with Gideon, Champion of Justice which I definitely had to read. My Mutavault kept it in check and it never got to attack for a substantial amount, also thanks to Jace’s +1 ability. He played an Ephara and unfortunately forgot to draw off the one creature he played while it was out. Elspeth on my end finished the game with it’s ultimate allowing my forces to come across for 24 damage.
Game 2, I was in complete control. My first life total change was a Sphinx’s Revelation for five and I ended the game at 40 life. He had a Spear of Heliod which was annoying, but I was able to attack with both my Mutavaults when he tapped out low enough to try and resolve spells.
Intentional draw allowing me to secure the first seed and to pick up some cheap french fries.
Sheng was not going to Montreal, so he conceded to me in the quarters, which saved the entire room from certain death waiting for the four-hour control match to finish. Thanks again, Mike!
Sebastian Steffe playing B/W Midrange
At this point, we had agreed to a four-way split of the packs and played on for the byes. Decklists were made public for some reason, which wasn’t too bad, but gave away my maindeck Fated Retribution. Game one was really strange because he lead off with a turn 1 Thoughtseize and then we played Draw-Go for the next five or six turns. My life total never dropped below 20 and I got him with Elspeth tokens, saving their demise from Bile Blight with my own Last Breath.
Game two ended up being much closer, as he slammed down a turn five Obzedat when I was tapped out. I played an Elspeth, which created a lot of blockers, but the drain for 2 on Obzedat was starting to get dangerous, dropping me to 9. He played an Erebos and had Underworld Connections, meaning the Erebos was active. I was going up one Soldier per turn since I had to block his creatures, but even though he was gaining two from Obzedat every turn, he was frantically digging with Erebos and Underworld Connections to find an answer to Elspeth. I got him down to 11 with two Soldiers, then made three more all the while ticking Elspeth up to seven. On his next turn, he gained two, up to 13 and attacked, forcing me to chump with two Soldiers. He played a Blood Baron of Vizkopa with three mana up, I had a Dissolve in hand, so I double-checked the life totals to make sure and let it resolve. He passed the turn back and I made the Elspeth emblem, activated Mutavault and swung with it and my three Soldiers for exactly 13 damage, using the Dissolve to stop the Bile Blight he had.
Bradd Arseneau playing Mono-Blue Devotion
The first game started off fairly slow, he had two Cloudfin Raptors but I had a Jace on turn four, allowing me to +1 and hold them off. He took advantage of my being tapped out to resolve Thassa, and after using the -2 ability to try and find some action, he landed a Nightveil Specter to activate everything and get me for 9. I then untapped and played a Temple of Enlightenment, seeing Supreme Verdict and putting it on top. I went back to scan the board and saw the Nightveil Specter that would take my Verdict away… so I made the easy decision to hit it with Detention Sphere. He played another creature to activate Thassa and hit me down to 4 before I was able to reset the board. Even though he had Thassa and was seeing a lot of cards, I managed to hit a Sphinx’s Revelation for six, finding Elspeth and winning in short order.
Game two was somewhat anti-climactic, I dealt with his early threats, leaving him with a board of Judge’s Familiar and Bident of Thassa versus my Jace constantly using the +1 to ensure he never drew cards. My deck had 1 Negate, 3 Gainsays and 4 Dissolves after sideboard and I just about drew all of them, all the while pecking away with Mutavault. I ended the game by ultimating Jace to grab a Thassa from his deck and another Jace from mine, earning the concession before he died to his own Thassa.
I felt pretty good immediately after the victory as it had been a while since I had really performed well and I definitely felt like I was “in the zone” all day. I was always considering what my opponents could have and what would be the highest percentage plays instead of just playing cards on autopilot.
I could also write about the MDSS on Sunday, but after being completely exhausted on Saturday night, I still was not able to sleep more than two hours. I finished 14th, going 5-2 while playing very poorly that day, which I believe is a strong indication of how good this deck really is. I made such plays as playing my 6th land and Elspeth, using the +1 to make three tokens versus a Fanatic of Xenagos with a +1/+1 counter and Arbor Colossus, while I was at one life. For the sake of the match-ups, here are my brief results on Sunday:
R1 R/G Monsters – Loss
R2 Jund – Win
R3 Bant Walkers – Win
R4 Jund – Win
R5 G/r Devotion – Loss
R6 Mono-Black Devotion – Win
R7 G/u Devotion – Win
The only immediate change I foresee making is taking out the Jace, Memory Adept and putting in another Fated Retribution in the sideboard. I am not entirely sure about whether I want to continue playing the Fiendslayer Paladins in the sideboard or if I’d rather opt for some sort of package including Brimaz, it is something that I will be trying out within the next few weeks.
Until next time, thanks for reading.
Report submitted Josh Breau