All posts by battlegroundsrva

Standard Vs. Modern

By Drew Kobus

Pros and Cons of Magic’s two most popular formats. What makes Standard great and Modern sorta… meh.

Hi there guys! Hope you are all having a great day as we quickly approach the holidays and, shortly after that, 2019. For those of you who don’t know who I am, my name is Drew Kobus. I’ve been playing Magic casually for a little over seven years and competitively for almost three years. I’ve had some reasonable success on the SCG Tour in both Modern and Standard, and those are the formats I’ll be discussing today. To start, I’d like to take a moment to address a question that I’ve pondered a lot in recent years and know others have as well, “What exactly makes a format good/healthy?”

Answering this question is a daunting task to be sure and, honestly, I don’t really think it’s possible in a truly objective sense, but I will do the best I can. If you are like me, and from what I have gathered, most of you are, Magic is at its most enjoyable when there is both great variety of gameplay and diversity of playable decks, both of which keep the game new and exciting every time you sit down for a match. MTG’s multiple formats do this mostly all on their own, but I personally feel things can get stale when these elements are lacking within a particular format. A great example of this is the Standard format around the time of Pro Tour Hour of Devastation when the only deck that you could really justify playing competitively was some variant of Ramunap Red. Don’t believe me? Let’s just put it this way, 6 of the 8 decks that made the top 8 of that event were some variant of the red aggro deck playing the card Ramunap Ruins, including the deck that ended up winning the event.

Anyway, now that I have set the baseline for my feelings on what makes a good Magic format (and a bad one), let’s get into the meat of what I really want to discuss.

What makes our current Standard format so great?

This standard format is some of the most fun I have had playing Magic in a long while, and as someone who has avoided Standard and focused on Modern for the last year or so, it’s refreshing to have a Standard format that is so open and enjoyable. Now, yes, I know there are the consensus “best decks” in the format that make up the top tier in standard, those decks being Golgari Midrange, Jeskai Control, Izzet Drakes, and Boros Aggro. Which of these four options is truly the best of the bunch is debatable, which is a good thing.  As I mentioned before, having diversity in what is viable in a competitive setting is a good thing for the health of the format. Aspects that make it even better are twofold, the first being that among these top decks, there are many variations that can attack different metagames and conform to different playstyles. Regarding the Izzet Drakes deck, a good friend of mine (shoutout to Ben Ragen) just 8-0’ed the Standard portion of the SCG Invitational playing Drakes, without one of the cards that initially put it on the map,

Arclight+Phoenix+GRN

Here’s his list:

1 Beacon Bolt
3 Lava Coil
4 Discovery
2 Niv-Mizzet, Parun
4 Crackling Drake
4 Chart a Course
2 Search for Azcanta
3 Dive Down
4 Enigma Drake
4 Sulfur Falls
3 Spell Pierce
1 Drowned Catacomb
4 Steam Vents
7 Island
6 Mountain
4 Shock
4 Opt

Sideboard
1 Beacon Bolt
1 Lava Coil
1 Niv-Mizzet, Parun
2 Ral, Izzet Viceroy
2 Shivan Fire
2 Rekindling Phoenix
3 Entrancing Melody
1 Treasure Map
2 Disdainful Stroke

Now, the other aspect I feel has led to the success of this format is that these four top decks aren’t really pushing out other decks from the competitive sphere entirely.  Various other decks have been able to put up good results recently and have proven to be viable in the format, such as Mono Blue Tempo, Selesnya Tokens, Grixis Control, Dimir Control, Bant Nexus, and Mono Red Aggro. Some more fringe decks than these have also been able to do well in the right metagame. With this much deck diversity, it is a great time to be playing Standard, especially for someone like me who loves to play something a little more off the beaten path. That said, my deck of choice, of course, is Dimir Pirate (I love a good tempo deck). It’s a brave new world, so if you have a deck idea for this current Standard, test it out! If you really think your deck is sweet, ship me a list, I’m always down to check out new sweetness, so let’s see the brews!

What makes Modern so… meh?

Now that I’ve taken you on a journey through how great Standard is, it’s time to pull back a little and compare it to another very popular format in Magic, Modern. The Modern format has such a deep card pool, there isn’t really an issue as far as the diversity of coherent and functional decks in the format. Because the card pool is so vast, it’s easy to have certain cards pop up that are too good for the format, which is why Modern has such an extensive banned list. In the current state of the Modern format, there are a couple cards that most people would agree are just a bit too good, but those cards are still legal and enable some of the decks in the format that make it very “unfun” at times.

While both cards enable different things, they are both very good at what they do. What they enable is a clear step above the other decks in this format, leading me to the opinion that if you aren’t playing one of these two cards in Modern right now, you’re just doing it wrong. That being said, yes, I know what you’re going to say, Jund and Jeskai Control and Storm and this and that all put up results, and you would be right, any deck can do well on a given weekend, and to be honest we don’t have the data needed to prove one way or another that the decks playing these cards are oppressive. However, what I do know from sheer experience playing this format and trying to play decks that aren’t leaning into these cards, when your opponent casts an Ancient Stirrings and finds a Krark-Clan Ironworks or an Urza’s Mine, and you look at your hand full of Tarmogoyfs and Fatal Pushes, you feel a bit foolish.

Speaking as someone who has played both with and against these cards, when you cast an Ancient Stirrings in a deck built to maximize its power, you feel like you’re playing Legacy, and it isn’t difficult to see why Stirrings is often compared to the card Demonic Tutor. Faithless Looting has some of the same effects on a game as Stirrings, but it enables busted things in a different way. To take an example from my current deck of choice, casting Faithless Looting and discarding two copies of Arclight Phoenix makes you feel like you’re cheating. It just isn’t okay. Now, I could go on for a long time about these two cards and get into a whole rant about the Modern Ban List, but that’s not really what I want to get into here. I simply want to leave you with the pros and cons of the Modern format and give you the context of a format I feel is far superior in a multitude of ways, so I’ll move to wrap things up here soon.

The biggest pro for Modern is its extensive card pool. You get to play with a lot of sweet cards and, yes, there are many sweet archetypes that you could potentially play and do well with (for my money I think Izzet Delver is the sweetest deck in the format). The con side of this coin, is that there are some decks that are incredibly frustrating to play against if your deck is not built to target them in some way. The greatest con in the Modern format is, however, the prevalence of games of Magic where one player simply doesn’t have a chance. When you play Jund against Tron, you just lose, none of the decisions you made in the game really mattered, and you end the match feeling worse than you did before, and that just isn’t a feeling I enjoy. Modern is a format full of instances like this, and unlike the current Standard format, favorable matchups in Modern are, for the most part, very one-sided, so it can be difficult to feel that confident in a deck when you know that going in to an event if you hit too many of one matchup you just won’t get to play any Magic that day. I experienced this first hand at SCG Regionals a few weeks ago when I showed up with my Izzet Delver deck and ran hot for the first couple rounds, then hit a couple matches where I just didn’t get to make any meaningful decisions and ended up in a position where I was unable to cash, and that’s just how Modern is.

 

Wrapping up

All of this being said, I don’t want you all to think I innately dislike Modern!  As I said, Modern does get to play a lot of sweet decks and the card pool allows for a lot of very sweet things to be done, but I do feel the format could be better and, especially when you compare it to our current Standard format, the differences are night and day.

I hope this article has been informative and maybe helped some of you know what to expect if you were considering jumping into one of these formats. If you disagree with something I said here, or just want to discuss anything Magic be it Standard or Modern, leave a comment, or maybe even find me on social media, on Twitter @TheMagikalDrew, or on Facebook Drew J Kobus, or even in person sometime. I’m always down to chat about everyone’s favorite TCG! Keep slinging your favorite spells and remember that this game is about having fun -so do what helps you do exactly that!

 

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see ya next time!

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Rock, Paper, Scissors, and Bigger Scissors

By Adam Bialkowski

The Standard metagame is stuck in a rock, paper, scissors situation; however there is one deck that can get over all others and is deemed bigger scissors, and that is Izzet Phoenix. Paper is Jeskai Control, rock is Golgari “Aggro,” and scissors is Boros Aggro. The metagame percentage for each deck is,

 

Golgari Aggro: 23%

Boros Aggro: 13%

Jeskai Control: 12%

Izzet Drakes: 10%

 

These four decks make up almost 60% of the entire Standard metagame and for good reason. In my opinion, these percentages represent, in descending order, easiest to play to hardest. Golgari Aggro is pretty linear with the only big decisions are what cards to keep on top with Explore triggers. Boros Aggro is a bit harder, understanding when to be the aggressor and when to tempo things out, this takes experience with aggressive decks and knowledge of the format as a whole. Jeskai Control has an easier early game than most other control decks due to Deafening Clarion; that card is the deciding factor on if you win or lose against the aggro decks. The late game is where skill comes into play. With Jump-Start cards and different graveyard interactions you are forced to use counter magic more cautiously. Izzet Drakes takes the cake for the hardest deck to currently pilot to success. I have seen plenty of average players play the deck and it is powerful, but in the hands of a more experienced player, the deck can be taken to the Top 8 of any Standard event. The deck rewards players for making good decisions on every play. At first glance the deck may seem random, but it requires a lot of careful thought into what should be discarded (other than the obvious phoenix), what spells to cast before others, when is and isn’t the right time to play and attack with drakes. All these elements combined reward skilled players with wins over some of the worst matchups the deck can have, thus the “Bigger Scissors” title.

 

In this four deck metagame, each deck has its preferred matchups:

 

Golgari Aggro > Boros Aggro and Izzet Drakes

This match up is hard for the more aggressive decks due to playsets of Wildgrowth Walker being in every Golgari deck now. If the card is unanswered, the game almost becomes out of reach for aggressive and burn strategies.

 

Boros Aggro > Jeskai Control

One card in this match up makes it a living hell for Jeskai and that is Adanto Vanguard. The two mana 3/1 Indestructible Vampire is out for blood and there’s nothing Deafening Clarion can do about it. Boros Aggro has evolved in a way to beat a single Clarion.

 

Boros Aggro > Izzet Drakes

Bigger scissors doesn’t have the best matchup against any aggressive deck playing red. There’s a lot of skill involved with the matchup and I do believe the better player will have a much better shot at winning here, but Boros still has a favorable matchup.

 

Jeskai Control > Golgari Aggro

Golgari Aggro is slow enough for Jeskai to have a steady game against it. Carnage Tyrant and Midnight Reaper are control’s biggest concerns but with a lot of mainboard sweepers from Jeskai, they can keep up. Clarion being copied by Expansion/Explosion clears everything Golgari has to offer. The matchup is grindy but it favors the deck playing Teferi.

 

Izzet Drakes > Everyone

Though mentioned above that it has a hard time against Golgari and red based aggressive decks, most matchups reward the better player. The microdecisions during each matchup will lead to wins that come down to skill and experience. Having the tools to fight every deck in the format will make it, in my opinion, the best deck in the format for a skilled player.

 

All the other decks in Standard not listed above aren’t necessarily bad, but most of them end up resembling one of the Tier 1 decks above. For example, the best version of control is Jeskai with Esper coming in second, the difference in these two decks is how good the Golgari, Boros, and Drake matchups are in relation to each other. Jeskai is well equipped with a three mana sweeper but lacks exile, whereas Esper has a slower sweeper but gets great exile potential by adding black. They both have their pros and cons, but I believe Jeskai is easier and better suited against the whole field than Esper.

 

How to beat the Rock, Paper, Scissors, and Bigger Scissors?

 

You can’t! {insert frowny face here.}

As someone who enjoys making meta stomping decks I’ve found almost impossible to

create a deck that has a good matchup against all four of the listed decks. You can run a lot of mainboard sweepers but then give up percentages in the control matchups or even run a lot of slow, powerful creatures and give up on the aggro matchups. That’s not a bad thing, though. If there was a single option that had good matchups against all of them, everyone would just play that and we’d have a stale format. Don’t let that keep you from trying to brew, though. Metagames change based on just a couple of cards, and maybe you’ll be the one to find the key. Going forward, Ravnica Allegiance will push Standard out of its comfort zone by introducing all ten buddy and shock lands in Standard again, giving each deck a viable manabase to work with and opening up several more options.

Qs & As: A Control Primer

By Myles Miller

Welcome back to the Battleground weekly article segment! We hope you had a great Thanksgiving holiday, however you chose to spend it. We took a week off from articles, but I’m going to make it up to you with a segment that’s a bit longer than usual.

If we’ve never met in person before: Hi. My name is Myles, and I play control. I like Islands, I have very strong opinions about the best art for Counterspell (it’s the Signature Spellbook printing, not close), and have a Jace tattoo on my right forearm. I’ve also been playing some form of blue/white or blue/white/black control in standard for the better part of the past two years. And so my goal here today is to pass on some of my knowledge of the control archetype, with some help from examples pulled from my matches at Grand Prix Milwaukee 2 weeks ago.

I’m first going to discuss the biggest threats of the format: every deck in Standard has cards that can be difficult for control to handle. A successful control player is one who recognizes how threatening a certain card is and responds accordingly, rather than just using counterspells and removal spells indiscriminately. After that, I’ll share a few examples from my experience at the Grand Prix, where I played at least 1 match against just about every popular archetype in today’s Standard format.

The Toolbox

Here is the deck I played at GP Milwaukee. Take a moment to look through it, then I’ll break down how these cards combine to make my opponents miserable.

Planeswalkers (4)                                     3x Moment of Craving

4x Teferi, Hero of Dominaria                     2x Negate

Enchantments (3)                                     2x Golden Demise

2x Search for Azcanta                              4x Sinister Sabotage

1x The Eldest Reborn                               3x Chemister’s Insight

Lands (26)                                                 2x Ritual of Soot

4x Watery Grave                                        4x Vraska’s Contempt

4x Drowned Catacomb                             Sideboard

4x Glacial Fortress                                    4x Thief of Sanity

4x Isolated Chapel                                     2x Lyra Dawnbringer

1x Detection Tower                                    2x Disdainful Stroke

1x Field of Ruin                                          1x Negate

4x Island                                                     2x Invoke the Divine

3x Swamp                                                 1x Ritual of Soot

1x Plains                                                    1x Dawn of Hope

Spells (27)                                                 1x Profane Procession

1x Fungal Infection                                     1x The Eldest Reborn

2x Syncopate

2x Cast Down

2x Essence Scatter

 

Knowledge is Power

The most important tool of a successful control player is knowledge: knowing what your opponent is likely to play, what decisions they are likely to make, and how you are most easily able to deal with their threats is an essential part of the control archetype. I played against 5 different types of decks at Grand Prix Milwaukee, all of which are very popular in the current Standard format. I’d like to analyze each matchup and describe what the threats are in order of severity. Let’s start with the ones I played against the least amount of times and work up the list.

Selesnya (green/white) Tokens – 1 match

Top 5 threats: 1. History of Benalia 2. Legion’s Landing* 3. Trostani Discordant 4. March of the Multitudes 5. Emmara, Soul of the Accord.

I only played against this deck once in all 15 rounds of the Grand Prix, and I’m thankful for that. This matchup is not an easy one because the opponent’s ability to make multiple tokens without spending much mana can quickly overwhelm the board, regardless of what Answers I’m holding. History of Benalia is Public Enemy #1 in this contest because for the price of 3 mana and 1 card, your opponent gets 2 creatures and a powerful power and toughness boost. If left unchecked, it’ll create a 2/2 on the first turn, create another 2/2 on the next turn while the first attacks for 2 damage, then make those tokens big enough to attack for a combined 8 damage. That’s 10 damage out of one card, half your life total! Legion’s Landing has an asterisk because it’s not the front of the card that’s scary, but the back side. If it flips, your opponent can keep making 1/1 tokens to slowly pick away at your life total, and it becomes a land which is significantly harder to remove than an enchantment. Trostani Discordant, March of the Multitudes, and Emmara, Soul of the Accord all follow this trend of creating multiple Questions out of just one card, making it easy to overrun your Answers.

Jeskai (blue/red/white) Control – 1 match

Top 5 threats: 1. Niv-Mizzet, Parun 2. Teferi, Hero of Dominaria 3. Crackling Drake 4. Expansion//Explosion 5. Banefire

It’s a mirror match! Sort of! Jeskai is an extremely popular deck right now, the fact that I only played against it one time was remarkable. Niv-Mizzet is an important part of your opponent’s gameplan in this matchup, since his text box includes the phrase “can’t be countered”. If left unchecked, Niv-Mizzet will give your opponent a lot of extra cards and give you a lot of damage to your life total. Expansion//Explosion pulls double-duty in a control mirror match. The Expansion half of the card allows your opponent to cheaply copy your draw spells and counterspells, and Explosion serves as a huge source of card advantage and potentially lethal damage. Lastly, Banefire can deal immense amounts of damage in the later stages of a game, and it also contains the text “can’t be countered”. You see how this is an issue.

Boros (red/white) Aggro – 2 matches

Top 5 threats: 1. History of Benalia 2. Adanto Vanguard 3. Legion’s Landing* 4. Experimental Frenzy 5. Banefire

Threats #1 and #3 have already been discussed, but there’s a newcomer between them: Adanto Vanguard is a nightmare for control. For the low, low price of 2 mana, your opponent can attack for 3 damage each turn with a creature that can only be removed by a few specific cards. If you have a Cast Down or a Ritual of Soot in your hand, your opponent will happily pay 4 life to keep this threat around. Experimental Frenzy allows your opponent to keep playing cards directly from their deck, which makes it easy to flood the battlefield with new threats, while you are limited to just the cards in your hand. This deck is the reason my list contains 2 copies of Golden Demise as a way to stave off a flood of aggressive creatures.

Izzet (blue/red) Drakes – 2 matches

Top 5 threats: 1. Niv-Mizzet, Parun 2. Murmuring Mystic 3. Arclight Phoenix 4. Crackling Drake 5. Goblin Electromancer

I, thankfully, did not see any copies of Murmuring Mystic in either match against this deck. The Izzet Drakes deck relies on cheap spells that draw cards, so if your opponent gets a 1/1 creature token for each of these spells? It can get out of hand very quickly. Arclight Phoenix can be dangerous because of its ability to return from the graveyard multiple times. Without a Vraska’s Contempt to get rid of it permanently, it might take several Answers to deal with just one copy. Goblin Electromancer makes the list not because it does much damage, but because of the benefit it provides to the rest of your opponent’s deck. When their cheap spells become even cheaper, it’s not difficult for your opponent to draw and cast more spells than your Answers can keep up with.

Golgari (green/black) Midrange – 7 matches

Top 5 threats: 1. Carnage Tyrant 2. Vivien Reed 3. Doom Whisperer 4. Vraska, Relic Seeker 5. Find//Finality

That’s right. Seven times. The good news is that I only lost 2 of these matches. Carnage Tyrant is the number 1 threat to any control deck. It can’t be countered, it can’t be targeted, and it hits really, really hard. My deck has a few answers in the form of The Eldest Reborn and Detection Tower, but if we could always draw the card we wanted Magic would be a very different game. Vivien Reed draws creatures, so the longer she stays on the battlefield the more problems your opponent can create for you. Doom Whisperer also hits hard, and since we have no creatures to attack with, your opponent can activate that surveil ability as many times as they’d like to ensure they find the best cards to draw against you. Jadelight Ranger also helps smooth out your opponent’s draws, and the Find half of Find//Finality can bring back creatures you’ve already had to deal with, allowing your opponent to ask even more Questions while you start running out of Answers.

The Right Anwers

Knowing what Questions your opponents will be asking is the most important part of playing control, but using the right Answers can separate the best from the rest. Some of the spells in my deck are very specific, such as Fungal Infection which is only good against low-toughness creatures, while some can handle just about anything, such as Sinister Sabotage or Vraska’s Contempt. The secret to doing well with a control deck is knowing when to use certain spells for certain threats. I’m going to describe a few situations I faced during Grand Prix Milwaukee, and demonstrate why some Answers are more correct than others.

Example 1: Izzet Drakes

Your opponent is having a pretty good turn. They’ve cast enough spells to bring back 2 copies of Arclight Phoenix from the graveyard at once, which are now both attacking you. As you can see below, you have several options to deal with this sticky situation. Take a moment to think about how you’d play out this turn before scrolling down to see what I did.

You

46915727_2188137151513631_2684090191878029312_n.jpg

Opponent

47242145_279496022909948_1777514482222759936_n

What I did on this turn is: nothing. I took 6 damage from the Arclight Phoenixes, then on my turn used Golden Demise to clear the board. Using one Answer to deal with 2 Questions is the reason for cards like Golden Demise and Ritual of Soot. This way I have the single-target removal available in my hand to use later.

Example 2: Boros Aggro

                This game is getting out of hand quickly. You’ve taken a few hits and the threats just keep piling up. You’ve just drawn for turn and played a land. Do you ue a removal spell this turn to take less damage from your opponent’s next attacks? Or bide your time and pass the turn and see what happens?

You

47105675_520006988480876_6561264406720675840_n.jpg

Opponent

47080644_2354611797945651_82934701794263040_n.jpg

The only point of damage that matters is the one that brings you to 0 life. You still have some life to work with, and waiting a turn to get the most value out of your board wipe after History of Benalia creates its second token is worth taking a bit more damage. Ritual of Soot should be able to clean up anything else your opponent adds to the battlefield, with the sole exception of Adanto Vanguard. But by holding on to the Moment of Craving, you can take care of that on your opponent’s turn before ruining their day on yours.

Example 3: Golgari Midrange

                Your opponent just played their 5th land, then cast one of their deck’s most potent threats: Doom Whisperer. With a whopping 6 power and an ability to surveil that your opponent can use multiple times, this is definitely a Question you have to Answer, and fast. As usual, you have a couple different ways to do this:

You

47132079_596066347520349_6257081143347118080_n

 

Opponent

47316079_295503521088750_1414378596528553984_n.jpg

Vraska’s Contempt is a great card, but there’s a reason it’s not the best play here. If Doom Whisperer is allowed to resolve, your opponent can pay life mutiple times to surveil and ensure they draw something good. So a counterspell is the ideal answer. Essence Scatter is of course an option, but I don’t think it’s the most correct choice. The card I went with is Syncopate, for one big reason. Syncopate exiles the card that it counters, which is extremely relevant in this matchup. The Golgari Midrange decks rely on strong creatures, and use Find//Finality or Memorial to Folly to buy those creatures back from the graveyard. If Essence Scatter is used on this Doom Whisperer, it’s likely to come back later to be cast again. Permanently removing a massive threat like Doom Whisperer is probably the best way to go.

End Step

With those quick looks into how Standard’s most popular decks are asking Questions, take a look back and see if you can pick out which cards in my list of 75 are meant to deal with which threats. There are a lot of different Answers, some more specific than others, but it’s important that every card in a control deck serve a purpose in at least one matchup. Do you have a card in mind that might be worth including? Drop a comment and make a case! Do you have questions about a certain matchup or different ideas on how to handle the situations I mentioned? Start a discussion below! Thanks for reading.

Pass turn.

Legacy Primer

By: Daniel D’Amato

Legacy is one of the most exciting formats that Magic has to offer. There are numerous, diverse decks ranging from combo, midrange, prison, and control all represented by the entire color spectrum of Magic. Like every other format in Magic though, there are the multiple top decks in the format that help define what Legacy is all about. The top decks of the format are all different in their own ways, especially with how they put away a game. My goal is to dive into what I consider the best decks in the format and provide understanding of how they win and how to combat them.

Miracles

19 LANDS
Arid Mesa
Flooded Strand
Island
Plains
Tundra
Volcanic Island
4 CREATURES
Monastery Mentor
Snapcaster Mage
33 INSTANTS and SORC.
Accumulated Knowledge
Brainstorm
Council’s Judgment
Counterspell
Flusterstorm
Force of Will
Ponder
Portent
Predict
Preordain
Swords to Plowshares
Terminus
4 OTHER SPELLS
Back to Basics
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
SIDEBOARD
Celestial Purge
Council’s Judgment
Counterbalance
Engineered Explosives
Flusterstorm
Pyroblast
Snapcaster Mage
Surgical Extraction
Volcanic Island

Miracles got its name from the Avacyn Restored mechanic “Miracle” that allowed you to play a card for an alternate casting cost if it was the first card drawn during that turn. Since Terminus’ printing, Miracles has been a strong Legacy contender, but how does it win? This deck utilizes the best cantrips and counter magic in the format to deal with its opponents’ strategy and then aims to win either through Snapcaster Mage or Monastery Mentor. Using card advantage like Accumulated Knowledge and Brainstorm, it’s able to find what it needs to win while being able to cast Terminus for its alternate casting cost on the opponents turn. This version also runs Back to Basics to tax opponents with greedy mana bases which is typically your Delver and Lands variants.

So, what are its strengths and weaknesses?

Strengths: This deck is very solid against creature-based strategies and combo decks. With the access to essentially an instant speed board clear along with numerous forms of free and regular counter magic, this deck can persevere through those matches with ease by gaining card advantage and putting the game away either through creature combat, or a Jace, the Mind Sculptor lock.

Weaknesses: This deck can have a tough time against the taxing variants of Legacy like D&T and Maverick. Anything that strains the mana base of Miracles or makes their spells cost more is typically a rough situation for them. Gaddock Teeg stops a lot of the deck and requires an immediate answer.

Turbo Depths

29 LANDS
Bayou
Bojuka Bog
Dark Depths
Forest
Ghost Quarter
Maze of Ith
Misty Rainforest
Sejiri Steppe
Swamp
Thespian’s Stage
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Verdant Catacombs
Wasteland
Wooded Foothills
11 CREATURES
Dark Confidant
Sylvan Safekeeper
Vampire Hexmage
15 INSTANTS and SORC.
Abrupt Decay
Crop Rotation
Inquisition of Kozilek
Sylvan Scrying
Thoughtseize
5 OTHER SPELLS
Mox Diamond
Sylvan Library
SIDEBOARD
Dread of Night
Dryad Arbor
Duress
Gaddock Teeg
Green Sun’s Zenith
Karakas
Liliana, the Last Hope
Pithing Needle
Surgical Extraction
Tireless Tracker

Turbo Depths is a land-based combo deck that utilizes Vampire Hexmage and Dark Depths along with support from Thespian’s Stage to create a Marit Lage as quick and efficiently as possible. Since this combo involves mostly lands, it can be rather difficult to interact with due to most removal referring to nonland permanents. Marit Lage also happens to be a 20/20 flying indestructible Avatar so unless you have a form to exile or bounce it, its also a rather tough beat. This combo is assembled either through Vampire Hexmage removing all the ice counters from Dark Depths per its ability or Thespian’s Stage making a copy of Dark Depths, except it won’t have counters and will create Marit Lage. But how well does this deck fare?

Strengths: This deck is very good against creature-based strategies and other forms of combo. Its game one is also decent vs control decks since they tend not to have too many mainboard cards that answer Marit Lage, or enough ways to interact. This deck can typically win in the first three turns making it a resilient contender in the format.

Weaknesses: Like any combo deck, the hands are very dependent on the required pieces to win. Accordingly, this deck typically can’t mulligan efficiently since it lacks cards like Brainstorm to fix awkward draws. This deck can also be run over by Wasteland and other land destruction that can stop the combo from happening.

Grixis Delver

19 LANDS
Flooded Strand
Misty Rainforest
Polluted Delta
Scalding Tarn
Underground Sea
Volcanic Island
Wasteland
13 CREATURES
Delver of Secrets
Gurmag Angler
True-Name Nemesis
Young Pyromancer
28 INSTANTS and SORC.
Brainstorm
Daze
Force of Will
Forked Bolt
Lightning Bolt
Ponder
Preordain
Spell Pierce
Thoughtseize
SIDEBOARD
Abrade
Diabolic Edict
Flusterstorm
Grafdigger’s Cage
Grim Lavamancer
Izzet Staticaster
Liliana, the Last Hope
Null Rod
Pithing Needle
Pyroblast
Surgical Extraction

Grixis Delver is one of the best aggro/midrange decks the format has to offer. It plays the best cantrips, countermagic, and some of the best creatures in the format. This deck utilizes Delver of Secrets and Young Pyromancer to provide a quick clock while being able to protect the strategy with free spells like Force of Will and Daze. It’s also able to clear the path for combat damage using Lightning Bolt and Thoughtseize to ensure damage will be pushed through. True-Name Nemesis along with Gurmag Angler can close out games very quickly while the deck protects them.

Strengths: This deck is very strong against combo-based strategies and fair midrange decks. Having access to free countermagic along with premium removal helps this deck shine. The diverse sideboard of this deck also allows it to be prepared for any matchup while not having to take too much away from the desired game plan.

Weaknesses: This deck, while it does run Wasteland, is not very good against Lands or 4c Loam. This deck has a very difficult time dealing with cards like Tabernacle and opposing Wastelands due to the lack of basics in the deck. This deck can also have a tough time with D&T and Maverick due to the taxing features of those decks along with their lands like Rishadan Port and Wasteland. But if you think you are the best player in the room, this is the deck to play since even the worst matchups are very winnable.

Ad Nauseam Tendrils

15 LANDS
Bayou
Bloodstained Mire
Island
Misty Rainforest
Polluted Delta
Swamp
Underground Sea
Volcanic Island
37 INSTANTS and SORC.
Ad Nauseam
Brainstorm
Cabal Ritual
Dark Petition
Dark Ritual
Duress
Infernal Tutor
Past in Flames
Ponder
Preordain
Tendrils of Agony
Thoughtseize
8 OTHER SPELLS
Lion’s Eye Diamond
Lotus Petal
SIDEBOARD
Abrupt Decay
Chain of Vapor
Dread of Night
Echoing Truth
Empty the Warrens
Flusterstorm
Hurkyl’s Recall
Tendrils of Agony
Xantid Swarm

I’m biased and love this deck but will do my best to give an honest review for those interested in the format. Storm is a strong combo deck that utilizes the Storm ability from Tendrils of Agony to drain the opponent for 20, but how does it get there? This deck abuses cards like Dark Ritual, Cabal Ritual, and Lion’s Eye Diamond (LED) to generate a lot of mana to essentially cast spells for free. Since LED discards your hand upon activation, and Hellbent checks on resolution, Infernal Tutor functions essentially as Demonic Tutor for whatever card you’re missing for your combo.

Strengths: This deck is very strong against creature-based strategies and other combo strategies due to how fast it can kill, potentially as early as turn one. While most decks mulligan rough, this deck can be great on 5 cards since that’s technically all you need to win the game.

Weaknesses: This deck has numerous weaknesses, specifically any blue control-based strategy. This deck also gets hit by all the taxing decks which cause the spells to cost more. While this deck can have a very good game one, another downside of this deck is that the play or draw can matter significantly due to cards like Thalia, Gaddock Teeg, Rishadan Port, and Thoughtseize.

Grixis Control

21 LANDS
Badlands
Bloodstained Mire
Island
Polluted Delta
Scalding Tarn
Swamp
Underground Sea
Volcanic Island
9 CREATURES
Baleful Strix
Gurmag Angler
Snapcaster Mage
26 INSTANTS and SORC.
Brainstorm
Diabolic Edict
Fatal Push
Force of Will
Hymn to Tourach
Kolaghan’s Command
Lightning Bolt
Ponder
Thoughtseize
4 OTHER SPELLS
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Liliana, the Last Hope
SIDEBOARD
Blood Moon
Dreadbore
Flusterstorm
Liliana, the Last Hope
Marsh Casualties
Pithing Needle
Pyroblast
Surgical Extraction
Toxic Deluge

Grixis Control, as opposed to Miracles, typically plays more creatures and aims to protect them and win the game. With cards like Thoughtseize and Hymn to Tourach, this deck aims to have its opponents’ hand empty and just beat them with value via Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Baleful Strix. This deck also utilizes Force of Will, as most blue decks do, to protect its creatures and planeswalkers and ideally ride them to victory. Hymn to Tourach allows for this deck to get extremely far ahead on card advantage as early as turn 2 and tax their opponents’ resources while also getting in for damage with Strix or Snapcaster. In my opinion, this is the best control deck in the format currently.

Strengths: What makes this deck great is that its game one is solid against most decks apart from Elves, the creature-based combo deck. With a variety of removal and interaction, this deck can hold its own against most of the field and is supported by a sideboard that makes the other two games significantly easier.

Weaknesses: Like Delver, this deck can also fold to land based strategies due to having spells taxed and being held off certain colors through Wasteland and Ghost Quarter. But even with those setbacks, this deck can rally through one creature or planeswalker.

Eldrazi Aggro

26 LANDS
Ancient Tomb
Cloudpost
Eldrazi Temple
Eye of Ugin
Glimmerpost
Karakas
Thespian’s Stage
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Vesuva
20 CREATURES
Endbringer
Matter Reshaper
Reality Smasher
Thought-Knot Seer
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
Walking Ballista
2 INSTANTS and SORC.
All Is Dust
12 OTHER SPELLS
Chalice of the Void
Grim Monolith
Karn, Scion of Urza
Sorcerous Spyglass
SIDEBOARD
Basilisk Collar
Emrakul, the Promised End
Ensnaring Bridge
Leyline of the Void
Ratchet Bomb
Sorcerous Spyglass
Thorn of Amethyst

I’d like to introduce Zendikar the deck. This deck uses our colorless friends along with taxing artifacts like Chalice of the Void to put games away quickly. In this format, a Chalice on one can be back breaking to some strategies and this deck hopes to capitalize on that as often as possible. With the help of Ancient Tomb and Eldrazi Temple, this deck can play its two-drop slot on turn one and follow it up with one of the most powerful four drops ever printed, Thought-Knot Seer. This version has an alternate win condition in the form of Karn, Scion of Urza who can just make a bunch of 4/4 and 5/5 Constructs that help put the game away quickly.

Strengths: Chalice of the Void is an insane Magic card, especially on turn one for one while on the play. That play alone can allow this deck to run free but if that didn’t do the trick, the card advantage and sheer size of Thought-Knot Seer will help. This deck can be tough to combat as well since the most played answers to creatures are one mana. This sideboard is also equipped to handle any deck you throw at it without shutting down its gameplan.

Weaknesses: This deck can have a tough time against some combo strategies like Turbo Depths and the traditional version of Lands due to how quick both can make a Marit Lage. Other than that, unless the opponent has it all, one of these creatures will stick and that’s all it takes for this deck to steal games.

Death and Taxes

24 LANDS
Karakas
11 Plains
Rishadan Port
Snow-Covered Plains
Wasteland
25 CREATURES
Flickerwisp
Mirran Crusader
Mother of Runes
Palace Jailer
Phyrexian Revoker
Recruiter of the Guard
Sanctum Prelate
Spirit of the Labyrinth
Stoneforge Mystic
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Walking Ballista
4 INSTANTS and SORC.
Swords to Plowshares
7 OTHER SPELLS
Aether Vial
Batterskull
Sword of Fire and Ice
Umezawa’s Jitte
SIDEBOARD
Containment Priest
Council’s Judgment
Disenchant
Elspeth, Knight-Errant
Ethersworn Canonist
Faerie Macabre
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
Isolate
Orim’s Chant
Path to Exile
Rest in Peace
Surgical Extraction
War Priest of Thune

Probably the fairest deck of the bunch is Death and Taxes. This deck aims to just play great creatures and win through combat. Cards that make the deck are Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Stoneforge Mystic and Recruiter of the Guard. Thalia can tax the opponent out of the game by making spells cost one more while Stoneforge Mystic can tutor up Umezawa’s Jitte to help push damage through. This deck also utilizes Rishadan Port to tap down opponents’ lands so that their turn is a wash or to keep them off mana of a certain color.

Strengths: This deck can be very strong against creature-based decks and some combo decks, especially while on the play. It generates value through Stoneforge Mystic and can shut down opponents’ strategies through Thalia or Phyrexian Revoker. The manabase is also solid because as mentioned earlier, Rishadan Port and Wasteland work well together while Karakas can keep some unfair strategies in check.

Weaknesses: This deck can be rough game one against some combo variants like Storm while on the draw or not having a taxing piece in the opening hand. This deck also has a tough time with Eldrazi due to the size of the creatures. Cards like Massacre and Dread of Night also exist in the format and can swing matchups wildly after sideboard.

4c Loam

26 LANDS
Badlands
Barren Moor
Bayou
Cabal Pit
Dryad Arbor
Forest
Ghost Quarter
Grove of the Burnwillows
Karakas
Maze of Ith
Savannah
Scrubland
Taiga
Tranquil Thicket
Verdant Catacombs
Wasteland
Windswept Heath
11 CREATURES
Dark Confidant
Gaddock Teeg
Knight of the Reliquary
Queen Marchesa
Scavenging Ooze
11 INSTANTS and SORC.
Abrupt Decay
Assassin’s Trophy
Green Sun’s Zenith
Life from the Loam
Punishing Fire
12 OTHER SPELLS
Chalice of the Void
Liliana of the Veil
Mox Diamond
Sylvan Library
SIDEBOARD
Ajani Vengeant
Containment Priest
Golgari Charm
Knight of Autumn
Leyline of the Void
Liliana, the Last Hope
Nissa, Vital Force
Swords to Plowshares
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale

This deck is quite the pile and it has been seeing a lot of success. Here, we use cards like Chalice of the Void and Mox Diamond paired with creatures like Knight of the Reliquary to put games away quickly. Obviously, being four colors, it has a greedy manabase, but everything flows smoothly thanks to Life from the Loam and Knight of the Reliquary which allow you to filter lands and bring them back to your hand. Occasionally, you can also steal games through repeated use of Wasteland and Ghost Quarter to prevent your opponent from ever playing Magic.

Strengths: This deck is very strong against most combo strategies, while it can fumble on some game ones. This deck is very good against delver-based strategies and most control-based strategies due to being able to tax their opponents’ mana while providing a strong creature threat in Knight of the Reliquary. Liliana of the Veil is also a planeswalker that requires an answer immediately or it can run your opponents out of threats.

Weaknesses: This deck can have a tough time against Eldrazi type aggro decks as well as some versions of land-based combo. Some of the cards can be awkward at times as well so this deck requires numerous reps and understanding to be played efficiently.

I know that was a ton of information, but this format is seriously one of the most exciting formats Magic has. There are numerous other decks than the ones I just listed here, and they all have their own impact on the format and can provide a pleasurable play experience. I hope you enjoyed this primer and as always if there are any questions or if you want to jam games, reach out to me. Thanks for reading!

New Year’s Lock-In Announcement

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Come celebrate the New Year at Battlkegrounds! We love New Year’s, and we’ve been throwing some of the best NYE parties at our store since we opened. We’d love for you to join us for a great evening of fun and games! Keep updated on all of the events that evening (and every other day!) by following us on Facebook.

The New Jersey Experience

By: Adam Bialkowski

Grand Prix New Jersey was an amazing experience of the standard format. A week before the event I had no idea what I wanted to play; I couldn’t make a deck to deal with the current meta since it hadn’t quite been defined. I had to play what I was best at and that led me to control. I decided Jeskai control fit my play style best and was off to test it for a week right before the GP.

I loved how the decked played in testing, but my only issue was feeling like I couldn’t kill people fast enough. Crackling Drake is a great card in the spell deck, but I didn’t enjoy playing it in Jeskai control. I thought the card was too slow and often just died the turn you played it because the deck runs no other creatures to draw out removal. As I was in the shower of my hotel room the night before the GP, I was running through simulations of different cards and deck matchups that I couldn’t beat or had too easy of a time beating. One card came to mind that I couldn’t actually beat:

xln-1-adanto-vanguard

This card is amazing as an unkillable two mana threat. When I got out of my shower, I had this card embedded in the main deck as a four of, and let me tell you, this card carried games just by itself. This was the final list I settled on right before the GP started.

Creatures: 7

4 Adanto Vanguard

1 Lyra Dawnbringer

2 Niv-Mizzet, Parun

Spells: 27

2 Syncopate

1 Essence Scatter

2 Expansion // Explosion

4 Justice Strike

4 Deafening Clarion

4 Ionize

4 Chemister’s Insight

2 Cleansing Nova

4 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

Lands: 26

4 Clifftop Retreat

4 Glacial Fortress

3 Island

2 Mountain

1 Plains

4 Sacred Foundry

4 Steam Vents

4 Sulfur Falls

Sideboard: 15

2 Lyra Dawnbringer

1 Nezahal, Primal Tide

1 Spell Pierce

2 Dawn of Hope

2 Disdainful Stroke

4 Lava Coil

3 Negate

Round 1

Bye :p

Round 2

Up against the mirror, however I was on the play and landed an Adanto Vanguard turn two against them and they had no way of dealing with it. Game two I played Nezahal and won immediately after.

Round 3

Played a U/R control deck called counter drake. A lot of counter spells and burn spells. The mainboard Niv-Mizzets won me game one and he took game two with aggressive tempo I couldn’t get ahead of, so game three I played the big Nezahal and immediately won again.

Round 4

The first time I go up against U/R Arclight Phoenix. This deck is very hard to beat if your opponent has more than two Phoenixes by turn four. Luckily for me, my opponent didn’t see a

single one all of games 1 or 3. Nezahal continued to win me game three. It was around here I started to realize how good Nezahal actually is.

Round 5

Mono White

     Weenie_Hut_Juniors.png

Turn 3 Deafening Clarion each game was too back breaking for the deck, so I snagged the match.

Round 6

The second time I go up against Arclight Phoenix. Three Phoenixes hit the graveyard each game before I could even say keep. First loss of the day but hey I’ll take 5-1 by round six.

Round 7

I went up against the G/R dinosaur Experimental Frenzy deck, mainboarding four Carnage Tyrants. I take game one through way too many wrath effects and Adanto Vanguards. Game two he plays a turn four Carnage Tyrant followed by Vivian Reid. I lost that game. Game three I wrathed the board then cast Nezahal, which is great at blocking Carnage Tyrants. Proceed to win and make Day Two.

Round 8

Arclight Phoenix is now reminding me far too much of Prized Amalgam. My opponent draws the nut all three games making my record now 6-2 to finish up Day One.

Round 9

I play against a super cool U/R control deck. My opponent won the die roll and played his Niv-Mizzet first and proceeded to stomp on my hopes and dreams. Game two I resolve my own Niv-Mizzet first and do the same. Game three I had to mulligan to six and keep three lands and proceed to draw no more lands until turn seven. 6-3

Round 10

First time playing against G/B Carnage Tyrant. I take game one from them with a lot of wraths and even more Vanguards. Game two my opponent played six Carnage Tyrants. Game three I saw no lands and proceed to lose. 6-4

Round 11

I can still get a Pro Point at this point, however the G/B Carnage Tyrant deck hadn’t finished stomping on my dreams just yet. 6-5

Round 12

Alright I’m in it for the Planeswalker points now, but by the time I had finished that thought my opponent already had two Phoenixes in the graveyard. 6-6 Drop :(.

I very much underestimated the Phoenix deck for the weekend which was my biggest mistake. I should’ve been playing mainboard Settle the Wreckage because exiling creatures is incredibly relevant in this format. The mainboard Vanguards won me too many games that I would normally lose, the six to seven turn clock you put your opponent on when you play one is amazing for a control deck with so much burn. Had a great weekend by the time it was all over, had a blast playing magic, enjoyed playing in a tournament setting again, and most of all had an unforgettable experience with some great friends.

Mathemagics, Part 2, Color Distribution

By Joseph Davis

Hi, I’m Joseph, and welcome back to Mathemagics. The goal of this series is to help you level up your deck building whether you’re new to the game or just trying to improve your brews. We’ll be exploring important aspects of deck design and diving very lightly into the math behind it, so you know not just how to build a deck, but why some deckbuilding choices are better than others. This week we’ll be building on last week’s article by talking about color distribution.

 

Last week we talked about your deck having a plan, and we’ll continue that this week. When building your deck, you will have certain spells you want access to on the turn they become available. A good example of this is Settle the Wreckage or Ritual of Soot: decks playing these sweeping cards will usually be slower and trying to halt the tide of aggro decks with one of these spells on turn 4. A card like Crackling Drake is generally not a good turn 4 play because it is often simply a 0/4 or 1/4 , so when building our mana base we will not need to be worried about having 2 red and 2 blue on turn 4.

 

We’ll be using the term “pip” to refer to mana symbols, so a card that costs 1G would be described as having 1 pip since you must use 1 green to cast it, while the other portion of the cost can be any color. Here are some tables:

 

One pip Turn 1 Turn 2 Turn 3 Turn 4 Turn 5 Turn 6 Turn 7
5 47.46% 52.41% 56.99% 61.21% 65.09% 68.65% 71.91%
6 54.14% 59.33% 64.03% 68.26% 72.07% 75.49% 78.55%
7 60.09% 65.36% 70.02% 74.14% 77.76% 80.94% 83.72%
8 65.36% 70.59% 75.11% 79.02% 82.37% 85.25% 87.71%
9 70.02% 75.11% 79.42% 83.05% 86.10% 88.66% 90.78%
Two pip Turn 2 Turn 3 Turn 4 Turn 5 Turn 6 Turn 7  
10 39.98% 46.74% 53.14% 59.13% 64.63% 69.63%  
11 45.44% 52.55% 59.13% 65.12% 70.50% 75.27%  
12 50.72% 58.02% 64.63% 70.50% 75.64% 80.07%  
13 55.76% 63.13% 69.63% 75.27% 80.07% 84.09%  
14 60.51% 67.84% 74.13% 79.44% 83.84% 87.40%  
15 64.97% 72.13% 78.13% 83.05% 86.99% 90.07%  
16 69.11% 76.02% 81.65% 86.12% 89.59% 92.16%  
Three pip Turn 3 Turn 4 Turn 5 Turn 6 Turn 7    
15 39.90% 48.11% 55.90% 63.05% 69.44%    
16 44.91% 53.44% 61.30% 68.31% 74.35%    
17 49.86% 58.55% 66.34% 73.04% 78.59%    
18 54.68% 63.40% 70.96% 77.22% 82.14%    
19 59.32% 67.93% 75.12% 80.82% 85.00%    
20 63.75% 72.10% 78.81% 83.84% 87.16%    
21 67.92% 75.90% 82.02% 86.26% 88.64%    

 

Magic is a best two out of three game, so again we are looking for our plan to work on time 66% of the time or greater. The number listed on the left is the number of sources which produce the percentages going across their row. When looking at the pip requirements, there is only a small distinction between mono and multicolored spells. For example, Merfolk Trickster costs UU (blue blue). You should have 16 blue sources to reliably cast it on turn 2. Thought Erasure costs UB (blue black). You should have 16 blue AND black sources to reliably cast it on turn 2. This does not mean you need to run 32 lands consisting of 16 islands and 16 swamps though. A Watery Grave, Drowned Catacomb, Dimir Guildgate, or Submerged Boneyard counts for both one blue source and one black source. One last note, when looking at hybrid mana costs like the Find (G/B G/B) half of Find//Finality you can count sources of either green OR black, so if you wanted to cast Find on turn 2 for some reason, you would need 16 green OR black sources to reliably cast it on time.

 

The overall thing to take away from this is that the earlier you need multiple colors, the fewer colors you can afford to mash together. In order to consistently cast a 3-mana card with 3 pips such as Goblin Chainwhirler, you need 21 sources of the color of that pip. This is the reason decks which use Goblin Chainwhirler, Steel Leaf Champion, or Benalish Marshall tend to be mono colored, as it is very difficult to produce the mana required to play them on time otherwise.

 

Let’s look at some decklists and discuss the construction of the archetypes:

RW Angels – Carson Lewis

5-8th Place SCG Classic – Dallas

 

2 Adanto Vanguard
3 Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice
4 Knight of Grace
4 Lyra Dawnbringer
4 Resplendent Angel
3 Shalai, Voice of Plenty
2 Tocatli Honor Guard

1 Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants

2 Conclave Tribunal
3 Deafening Clarion
4 History of Benalia
2 Justice Strike
2 Lightning Strike

4 Clifftop Retreat
4 Mountain
12 Plains
4 Sacred Foundry
SIDEBOARD
2 Banefire
1 Ixalan’s Binding
1 Karn, Scion of Urza
2 Rekindling Phoenix
3 Seal Away
2 Settle the Wreckage
1 Silent Gravestone
1 Sorcerous Spyglass
2 Tocatli Honor Guard

 

This deck is almost a mono white deck but is splashing red for Justice Strike, Deafening Clarion, and most importantly Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice. This deck’s plan is to curve out with good threats, most importantly playing Aurelia on turn 4. The Justice Strike on turn 2 and the Deafening Clarion on turn 3 are less important to the plan for the deck than consistently landing Aurelia on time, as she pumps whatever threats you have out already and adds a significant clock on the next turn when she can join the battle. Looking at our chart, they should have 13 sources of both red and white to consistently cast Aurelia on turn 4. They have 20 white sources and 12 red sources, so the deck is almost exactly where it should be mathematically but may wish to change one more Plains into a Mountain to bump their numbers slightly more into line. If the deck wanted to cast Justice Strike consistently on turn 2, it would need to climb to 16 red sources, but since Justice Strike is a late game removal card to clear out a card like Ghalta, Primal Hunger, we don’t have to worry about being able to cast it on turn 2.

 

Jeskai Control – Michael Hamilton

9-16th Place SCG Classic – Columbus

 

1 Ral, Izzet Viceroy

3 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

2 Chemister’s Insight

1 Cleansing Nova

2 Deafening Clarion

2 Essence Scatter

4 Expansion // Explosion

4 Ionize

2 Justice Strike

1 Lava Coil

2 Lightning Strike

1 Negate

2 Search for Azcanta

3 Settle the Wreckage

1 Shivan Fire

1 Shock

4 Clifftop Retreat

1 Evolving Wilds

2 Field of Ruin

4 Glacial Fortress

2 Island

4 Plains

4 Sacred Foundry

4 Steam Vents

3 Sulfur Falls

 

SIDEBOARD

1 Chemister’s Insight

1 Dawn of Hope

1 Deafening Clarion

1 Disdainful Stroke

1 Invoke the Divine

3 Lyra Dawnbringer

1 Negate

1 Nezahal, Primal Tide

2 Shalai, Voice of Plenty

1 Shivan Fire

2 Siege-Gang Commander

 

Now, you might be saying, are multicolored cards always a worse choice than mono colored cards? For example, is it always harder to cast Ionize (1UR) instead of Sinister Sabotage (1UU)? The answer is: it depends. If you are playing a three (or more) color deck like this one, and especially if you have multiple cards you want to cast on the same turn, multicolored cards and dual lands can make it easier to have different plans spread across multiple cards. In this deck you want to cast Deafening Clarion (1WR) or a counterspell on turn 3, depending on what you’re playing against and what you draw. For both Sabotage and Clarion to work in this scenario you need 14 sources of each red, blue, and white to have all your options open, but for Ionize you can share dual lands when building your mana base. For example, Steam Vents counts as both a blue and a red source for Ionize AND a red source for Clarion. Likewise, Sacred Foundry counts as both a white and a red source for Clarion AND a red source for Ionize. The overlap between the two enables a more reasonable mana base for achieving the desired plan for the deck.

 

BG Midrange – Maxwell Jones

1st Place SCG Classic – Dallas

 

3 Doom Whisperer

2 Golgari Findbroker

4 Jadelight Ranger

4 Llanowar Elves

4 Merfolk Branchwalker

3 Ravenous Chupacabra

3 Seekers’ Squire

3 Wildgrowth Walker

3 Vivien Reid

3 Vraska, Relic Seeker

2 Assassin’s Trophy

3 Find // Finality

8 Forest

4 Overgrown Tomb

7 Swamp

4 Woodland Cemetery

 

SIDEBOARD

1 Assassin’s Trophy

2 Carnage Tyrant

3 Duress

1 Find // Finality

3 Moment of Craving

1 The Eldest Reborn

2 Vraska, Golgari Queen

2 Vraska’s Contempt

 

This deck is cluttered with mana symbols looking to cast powerful cards like Jadelight Ranger (2 pips, green) on turn 3 or Ravenous Chupacabra (2 pips, black), and Golgari Findbroker (4 pips, green and black) on turn 4. To be able to play these spells reliably, the deck has to stick to 2 colors, otherwise it would be impossible to get the required number of colored mana sources without playing an extraordinary amount of lands. With just 23 lands, this deck still plays 16 green sources and 15 black sources enabling it to reliably fill out the large number of color pips required from all the powerful double pipped cards.

 

When building your next deck, keep these principles in mind and ask yourself these questions:

1) Which of my spells do I need to cast as early as possible?

2) Are there any multicolored cards which I can substitute in to make my plans overlap better?

3) Can I achieve the number of sources I need in the number of lands I’m playing?

 

If you find yourself answering number 3 with “no”, you probably are trying to stretch your early color requirements too much. You should either substitute some multicolored spells in if possible, or change your plan to be less color intensive or involve fewer colors. I hope you’ve enjoyed your second lesson in Mathemagics, and I’ll be back with another one soon!