Azorius Basterds

My name is Lt. Aldo Raine and I’m putting together a special team … Through our cruelty they will know who we are. And they will find the evidence of our cruelty in the disemboweled, dismembered, and disfigured bodies of their brothers we leave behind us. And [they] won’t be able to help themselves but to imagine the cruelty their brothers endured at our hands, and our boot heels, and the edge of our knives. And [they] will be sickened by us, and [they] will talk about us, and [they] will fear us. And when [they] close their eyes at night and they’re tortured by their subconscious for the evil they have done, it will be with thoughts of us they are tortured with. Sound good?
— Brad Pitt as Lt. Aldo Raine, Inglourious Basterds

Those that know me can probably tell you that nothing is more frustrating to me than not being able to hit all my colors and cast all my spells. I am generally a fan of consistency over power. Even in a Standard format with as much fixing as is currently available, I hesitate to play a three color deck.

That said, I’m pretty sure that playing a U/W control deck in this format requires at least a splash of some kind, be it red for Pillar of Flame (as seen in week one from Todd Anderson), green for Thragtusk and Farseek (like the Bant control deck suggested by Chapin), or black for access to Ultimate Price, Lingering Souls, and Sorin (such as the deck that Shaheen Soorani piloted to win Virginia States).

Clearly there are several ways to bastardize the Azorius deck, and personally I’ve run the gamut. I think splashing for Pillar early on was correct—even necessary, considering the saturation of Zombies that was expected. However, the majority of the Zombie population has since died out (“died out again?”), and if you’re going to go with red, I think the midrange/tempo strategies are probably a better fit. The format-defining beast that is Thragtusk, plus the addition of a “Mind Stone” in Farseek was very enticing, but the need to hit green mana on turn two to get the most out of Farseek (i.e. resolve Jace, Architect of Thought on turn three) required more than just a splash of green. In addition, playing Thragtusk in a white deck just begs for the inclusion of Restoration Angel (and to a slightly lesser extent, Angel of Serenity), which also plays nicely with cards like Centaur Healer. All of a sudden, instead of an Azorius control deck splashing green, you’re playing a Selesnya creature deck splashing blue. While both Bant Control and U/W/R Midrange are strong and valid strategies, neither is really my style.

Last Thursday, I read Shaheen Soorani’s articleahem—”Pledge to Lingering Souls,” and my interest was piqued. Then on Friday, Gerry Thompson featured an Esper deck by Michael Hetrick (_ShipItHolla) in the SCG Premium Newsletter:

4 Azorius Charm
2 Think Twice
2 Ultimate Price
2 Syncopate
3 Sphinx’s Revelation
13 Instants

4 Lingering Souls
4 Terminus
8 Sorceries

4 Detention Sphere
4 Enchantments

4 Jace, Architect of Thought
3 Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
2 Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
9 Planeswalkers

4 Drowned Catacomb
4 Glacial Fortress
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Island
4 Isolated Chapel
2 Nephalia Drownyard
4 Plains
26 Lands

Both of these lists were right in my wheelhouse. Counters, removal, card draw, and the one-two planeswalker punch of Jace + Tamiyo. Initially I wasn’t completely sold on Sorin, but I resolved to give it a shot in an Esper control build. With the above two lists as reference points, I came up with the following:

Azorius Basterds

2 Snapcaster Mage
2 Creatures

4 Azorius Charm
2 Syncopate
2 Dissipate
2 Ultimate Price
2 Forbidden Alchemy
2 Sphinx’s Revelation
14 Instants

4 Lingering Souls
3 Supreme Verdict
1 Terminus
8 Sorceries

2 Detention Sphere
2 Enchantments

4 Jace, Architect of Thought
2 Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
2 Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
8 Planeswalkers

3 Island
3 Plains
1 Swamp

4 Glacial Fortress
4 Drowned Catacomb
4 Isolated Chapel
4 Hallowed Fountain

2 Nephalia Drownyard
1 Vault of the Archangel
26 Lands

These lists are obviously very similar to each other; more than living in the same neighborhood, I think they share a three-bedroom apartment. I like a lot of Shaheen’s numbers, but I don’t really want to play with Runechanter’s Pike. It’s too much of a threat and not enough of an answer. I like my cards to either be able to get me out of a bad situation (spot removal, counterspells, sweepers, card draw) or ideally double as both threat and answer (Lingering Souls, planeswalkers). It’s just a one-of in Shaheen’s deck, and I certainly can’t fault him for playing it—he did win VA States, after all—but equipment is not where I want to be. I also decided to cut the Augurs, which I don’t feel are as good with so few zombies around to scare off (not to mention how demoralizing it is to whiff, even if it’s rare).

Hetrick’s list leans just a touch too heavy on the miracle plan for me, with 4 Terminus and zero maindeck Supreme Verdict. I prefer Shaheen’s split of 3 Verdict, 1 Terminus. Again, it’s a Power vs Consistency thing, with Terminus being more powerful and Verdict being more consistent. Since I’m only playing one copy of Terminus main, Forbidden Alchemy gets the nod over Think Twice. [Note: Hitting a miracle with Forbidden Alchemy does not trigger miracle, as you are not “drawing” the card, you’re putting it into your hand.]

Despite my initial reservations, Sorin has really been pulling his weight. The comparisons to Elspeth, Knight-Errant are inevitable, yet fairly warranted in the context of this deck. In most cases I find myself making a Soldier Vampire token to defend myself and my planeswalkers, and in this way Sorin is better than Elspeth (lifelink!). Sorin also threatens to go ultimate a turn faster. While his second ability is clearly weaker in the sense that it costs loyalty rather than adding it, the actual effect in concert with Lingering Souls can act as a pseudo-Overrun of sorts. If you’re not under a ton of pressure, it’s often correct to hold Sorin until you’re able to play Lingering Souls and flash it back in the same turn; then play Sorin on the subsequent turn, make an emblem, and crash in for 8.

Azorius Charm is another card that has surprised me somewhat. When the Return to Ravnica Charm cycle was initially spoiled, most put this one somewhere in the middle in terms of playability; however, just the “Condemnory Lapse” mode (as I like to call it) makes the card worth playing. That you can “cycle” it is just icing, and the third option is like remembering to grab a napkin. I always forget to grab napkins, but often find myself in situations where I wish I had one handy.

If you haven’t played a Sphinx’s Revelation yet, you’re missing out. The card is really good. I’ve mostly cast it for the lifegain and ended up with 4+ cards as a bonus. It’s like paying a lot of money for a good meal at a nice restaurant, and being given a free iPad on the way out.

I’m still fiddling around with the manabase, primarily the numbers on the utility lands. Currently I’ve got two Nephalia Drownyard, one Vault of the Archangel. I don’t want more than three in the maindeck, and I’m considering cutting one of them for either a Swamp or an Evolving Wilds. With only four counterspells main, this deck isn’t extremely vulnerable to Cavern of Souls, but a Cavern could still hurt. Ghost Quarter may be worth consideration, if only for the sideboard, with the added effect of bolstering your game against opposing Drownyards, Kessig Wolf Runs, etc.

A couple of other cards I’ve got my eye on are Drogskol Reaver and Cyclonic Rift. Shaheen does a great job espousing the virtues of Reaver in his article, so I won’t rehash that here. Rift just seems like an excellent catchall that can double as an additional sweeper—an incredibly powerful, lopsided sweeper at that. SCG’s own Glenn Jones once referred to Sleep as “the blue Bonfire,” and I think Cyclonic Rift is an even better fit for the moniker. I’m seriously considering it for a slot in the maindeck, but it’s a tough call on what to cut.

No sideboard as of right now, as I’m still tweaking the maindeck, and I’m also of the opinion that sideboarding should be tailored to each specific tournament. I will say that in the wake of Brad LeBouef’s win last weekend in New Orleans with three maindeck Cavern of Souls, the Essence Scatters that I was considering are looking a lot worse. It seems to me that you’re better off dealing with creatures using removal and sweepers than by trying to rely on narrow counterspells.

For the moment, this is my favorite deck in Standard, and it has a lot of wiggle room and potential to evolve with the format. Not only that, but Gatecrash will be sneaking up on us in just a few months, bringing with it Watery Grave, Godless Shrine, and likely a host of Dimir and Orzhov goodies that will only make the deck stronger.


[Modern] In Testing: Pre-Worlds Updates to Flash Delirium

If you haven’t read my last post regarding the genesis of this deck, check it out here).

Here’s my most recent list:

4 Mana Leak
3 Path to Exile
3 Spell Snare
1 Familiar’s Ruse
3 Cryptic Command
3 Punishing Fire
3 Thirst for Knowledge
20 Instants

3 Spellstutter Sprite
4 Snapcaster Mage
4 Tarmogoyf
2 Vendilion Clique
13 Creatures

1 Sword of Feast and Famine
1 Vedalken Shackles
1 Engineered Explosives
3 Artifacts

3 Island
2 Hallowed Fountain
2 Breeding Pool
2 Steam Vents
4 Scalding Tarn
4 Misty Rainforest
3 Grove of the Burnwillows
3 Mutavault
1 Academy Ruins
24 Lands

In anticipation of a more aggro-heavy format, I went back to the Punishing/Grove combo, and also added Tarmogoyf back into the deck. While it doesn’t fit the instant-speed theme, it seems necessary for both early defense and added pressure. One of the things I found was that the deck wasn’t enough of a draw-go control deck to sit back and pick away at an opponent’s life total with a 1- or 2-power dude. Tarmogoyf fills the role nicely.

Another massive hole in the previous version was the lack of card draw. The Ninjas and their curiosity were great when they worked, but they weren’t reliable enough to provide the card advantage/selection that I found myself craving in many of my games. In a word: Cute. Thirst for Knowledge is making a noticeable impact in the games where I’ve seen it. While I’m discarding 2 cards far more often than I’m dumping an artifact, it hasn’t really been a problem (due in part to Snapcaster Mage, who can get use out of any instants or sorceries you decide to dump). One of my favorite “tricks” is to use Thirst mid-combat as a pseudo-pump spell for Tarmogoyf. They rarely see that one coming.

Obviously, these changes demanded some casualties from the previous version. I’m still loving the miser’s Familiar’s Ruse, so for the moment it’s staying. The 2 Ninjas, Venser, and a Vendilion Clique all bowed out to make room for 4 Tarmogoyf. The artifact count has been reduced to just one of each (although I’m likely including more in the sideboard), and a land was cut to make room for 6 more instants (3 each of both Punishing Fire and Thirst for Knowledge). I noticed I kept getting flooded, and since the deck can run reasonably well off just 4 lands, I felt safe doing this. With that in mind, however, I shaved the 4th Cryptic Command, which made room for the aforementioned miser’s Familiar’s Ruse.

The addition of both Tarmogoyf and Punishing Fire required a reworking of the manabase. The new color requirements meant that the 4th Mutavault was the first to go. I considered cutting the Academy Ruins, but having cut down to just one of each artifact, in addition to newcomer Thirst for Knowledge, I’ve kept it in for now. Watery Grave seemed unnecessary (I don’t think I ever needed black mana, not even once).

The Modern format is fairly difficult to grasp at the moment, especially post-bannings. It hasn’t had much of a chance to get any momentum, but I’m hoping Worlds and the upcoming PTQ season will help cement this format in the hearts of players, like Legacy before it. I’ll be keeping a close eye on the Modern decks coming out of Worlds this week, as this is most likely to have the biggest influence on the upcoming PTQ season. If I had to guess, I’d say the format will initially revolve around Punishing Fire and Grove of the Burnwillows. The best decks will be those that can use the combo most effectively, and those that can best neutralize its effects. (Honorable Mention goes to Spell Snare.)


Further updates to come. In the meantime, keep an eye on my Twitter account (@AffinityForBlue), as I’ll be tweeting from Worlds this week. You can also expect some content on Episode 87 of Yo! MTG Taps! (coming up after Thanksgiving).

[Modern] In Testing: Flash Delirium

When Snapcaster Mage was previewed at Pro Tour Philadelphia earlier this month, it was the talk of the tournament floor. Personally, I was excited to fit it into as many decks as possible. I already had Modern on the mind (it being the format of the Pro Tour), so the wheels were immediately turning in that direction.

I was already testing a Previous Level Blue style deck with the Punishing Fire + Grove of the Burnwillows combo, but was somewhat unimpressed. The manabase felt clunky, and the Punishing/Grove combo was not as strong as I’d expected. Not to mention the fact that the deck was clearly too slow for the then-current environment, which was saturated with blazingly fast combo decks that made it difficult for a control deck to thrive.

The bannings announced on September 20 changed all that. The loss of a key accelerant (Rite of Flame) plus the two best one-mana cantrips in the format (Preordain, Ponder) should significantly slow things down, providing an opportunity for control to get a grip on the format.

I decided to dismantle the deck I was testing and start from scratch, using various Previous Level Blue decks and Mystical Teachings decks as inspiration. Here’s what I ended up with.

Flash Delirium:

4 Mana Leak
3 Path to Exile
3 Spell Snare
4 Cryptic Command
14 Instants

3 Vendilion Clique
4 Snapcaster Mage
2 Ninja of the Deep Hours
3 Spellstutter Sprite
1 Venser, Shaper Savant
13 Creatures

3 Sword of Feast and Famine
3 Engineered Explosives
2 Vedalken Shackles
8 Artifacts

4 Hallowed Fountain
1 Watery Grave
1 Steam Vents
1 Breeding Pool
4 Mutavault
4 Misty Rainforest
4 Scalding Tarn
1 Academy Ruins
5 Island
25 Lands

The result leans towards Aggro-Control, something like a pre-Bitterblossom Faeries deck (did those even exist? Sure they did. Just ask Zvi). The amount of synergy in this deck is somewhat staggering. Not only are the individual cards powerful on their own, they work together to provide quite a bit of versatility. This is my kind of deck.

Of the 35 non-lands in the deck, 27 of them can be cast at instant speed (or pseudo-instant speed in the case of Ninja of the Deep Hours‘ mid-combat ninjutsu ability); hence the name, “Flash Delirium” (the name of one of my favorite MGMT songs).

Speaking of Ninja of the Deep Hours, its inclusion may seem questionable, but it fuels one of the trickiest (and, frankly, coolest) interactions in the deck. With so many flash creatures with enter-the-battlefield abilities, Ninja acts as a one-use Riptide Laboratory that draws you a card (sometimes more than one) and allows you to return and reuse any of the other 11 creatures. Value! For the moment I’m going with the Ninja, but another idea I had (which doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive) is to play a copy or two of Familiar’s Ruse, which gives you a similar effect without the need to attack.

Moving on to the sorcery speed portion of the deck, Sword of Feast and Famine should be no surprise to anyone. With this many instant speed options, the deck is able to fully capitalize on the Sword’s untap trigger, while the protection the Sword offers can facilitate ninjutsu in a pinch, or help a Ninja slip by and draw you a card.


The manabase is built to take full advantage of both Vedalken Shackles and Engineered Explosives. Nearly every land is an island (or can fetch one), ensuring that the Shackles fit any creature you might encounter. The inclusion of all four blue Ravnica-block dual lands allows you to go to the full 5 Sunburst counters if necessary. Mutavault, while not an island, is a faerie, which can be relevant alongside Spellstutter Sprite (as anyone who plays Legacy or who played Standard when Lorwyn was legal will tell you). Lastly, Academy Ruins is there to pick up any broken Swords, Shackles, or dead Explosives that might have found their way into the graveyard.

This is still a rough and somewhat untested list, but it’s what I’m currently working with. I haven’t yet come up with a sideboard (it sort of depends on how the format shapes up), but I’ve got my eye on the usual players: Thoughtseize; Krosan Grip; Pithing Needle (and possibly Trinket Mage to fetch it; can also grab Explosives); Wrath of God; Lightning Bolt (or possibly Helix, but it might be a stretch). I’m also considering an Elspeth, Knight-Errant or two.

Thoughts? Ideas? I’d love to hear ’em.

Follow me on Twitter @affinityforblue.

UPDATE: A lot of people have been asking about the list, and while it is my intention to write up a full post after some more testing, I figured I’d throw out a few updates. After discussing the idea with Mike Flores, we both determined that the deck is likely lacking two things: more power/pressure, and probably more card draw as well. I’ve shaved some numbers, cut the Ninjas from the deck entirely, and added Tarmogoyf and the Punishing/Grove combo back into the deck (as Shaheen Soorani pointed out in his recent article on SCG, the format is looking fairly aggro-heavy). I’m currently playing with 2 copies of Familiar’s Ruse as well, which has been stellar. Next on my agenda is to get a few copies of Thirst for Knowledge into the deck. Theoretically, Snapcaster Mage will mitigate the downside of discarding spells off of a Thirst. I’m considering shaving a land, because it feels like the deck gets a little flooded more often than I’d like. More details to come.

Why I’m excited for Venser (and you should be too).

I mean, first of all, it’s freaking Venser.

Remember how good the original Venser was a few years back? Of course, the new Venser has little to do with his previous Legendary incarnation, aside from representing the same character. However, this version may have even more of an impact on Standard than the Shaper Savant.

Venser, the Sojourner was the first major card spoiled from Scars of Mirrodin. Being a huge fan of the first Venser (shocking, I know), I was super excited to see what his planeswalker self would be capable of. However, to be honest, I was sort of let down at first.

A Sorcery-speed Momentary Blink? Hm, okay, what else?

Make my creatures unblockable? What creatures? Baneslayer? Celestial Colonnade? They don’t really need it, being that they have Flying.

What’s his ultimate? Exile stuff. Seems spicy, but so does every other planeswalker’s ultimate ability. To be playable, his non-ultimate abilities need to have an impact in case he never reaches his ultimate.

So, with my initial impression out of the way (“he’s okay, but really needs to be built around to be any good”), I moved on to other Scars of Mirrodin spoilers, which were pouring forth at an alarming rate. Elspeth Tirel, Koth (KOTH!), Mox Opalman, Elspeth seems so good!Geez, how am I gonna deal with this Koth guy? Should I just play red?

But when I stopped for a little while, for whatever reason, Venser kept scratching around on the inside of my skull.

So I took a (figurative) page out of Patrick Chapin’s book (Next Level Magic, which you can buy here!) and took another look at Venser from a different perspective: What would make this card good?

I sketched out a list based on an amalgamation of Next Level Bant and U/W Sun Titan Control, trying to get the most possible advantage out of Venser while not relying too much on him. (Looking back, I was definitely overcompensating for Memoricide and therefore wanted to diversify my threats.)

2 Preordain
2 Condemn
4 Mana Leak
1 Journey to Nowhere
4 Wall Omens
4 Sea Gate Oracle
3 Jace Beleren
2 Tumble Magnet
3 Day of Judgment
1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
2 Sphinx of Lost Truths
3 Venser, the Sojourner
1 Elspeth Tirel
1 Baneslayer Angel
2 Sun Titan

4 Celestial Colonnade
4 Glacial Fortress
6 Island
5 Plains
1 Arid Mesa
1 Scalding Tarn
4 Tectonic Edge

Here is the (entirely unedited) e-mail I sent to Bigheadjoe (my co-host on my podcast, Yo! MTG Taps!—but you knew that already, right?) in the wee hours of the morning on September 10:

○ Condemn, Mana Leak, DoJ, Journey, Tumble Magnet – disruption
○ Preordain – card quality + cantrip
○ Wall, Oracle, Beleren – cantrips, blink targets
○ Sun Titan – gets back all the cantrip permanents, also gets back Journey and Tumble Magnet (if destroyed or discarded to SoLT or something). Sick blink target.
○ Sphinx of Lost Truths – can throw just about any of that stuff into the ‘yard & then I can just get it back w/ Sun Titan. Another blink target.
○ Venser – can blink almost everything to good effect (Wall, Oracle, Sphinx); resets Beleren and Magnet too.
○ Elspeth T. & JTMS – to assist & be alternate win conditions (considering how many cards I’m drawing, I’ll see them fairly often, but don’t need them to win)
○ BSA – because the only relevant ability she lacks is vigilance, and with Venser in play, she has it 🙂 Another win condition.

The interesting thing is I built the deck around Venser, but he’s not the win condition, so the deck is inherently strong against Memoricide (a lot of diversity).

There are a whopping 14 win conditions!:
Titan x2
Sphinx x2
Venser x3
Elspeth x1
BSA x1
Colonnade x4

Tumble Magnet + Walls and Oracles force over-extension into DoJ or Elspeth’s ultimate. I can DoJ on turn 4, then on 5 do any number of things: SoLT, BSA, Elspeth; with a Condemn in hand, I can play Venser, blink-untap a land, and if a haste creature tries to attack the unprotected Venser, I have mana up for Condemn. Turn 6 a Sun Titan starts bringing back whatever creatures of mine that I may have wrathed away on turn 4.

Venser can also move the Journey to more relevant creatures if I want, and can blink himself to dodge Elspeth’s ultimate. Tirel also destroys Journey and Magnet, but Titan brings them both back. With a Venser in play, on turn 6 I can play Titan, get back a Wall or an oracle, blink the Titan, get back another Wall or Oracle. Plenty of protection for Venser and meanwhile filling my hand with spells for if/when I can use his ultimate. Tectonic Edge w/ Sun Titan & Venser is just sickening. Kill 2 nonbasics a turn. Then start exiling lands with Venser’s ultimate.

I’ve got a confession to make: I have yet to actually try this list, although I still feel it may have potential (I think it’s at least worth trying). Side note: If anyone actually does give this a try, I’d really love to hear your feedback.

So, that was 3 weeks ago, and since then I’ve come to the realization that Venser doesn’t actually need to be built around. Sure, you want to have targets for his blink ability, but the great thing about Venser is how well he already fits into the synergies of U/W Control! The most recent iterations of classic U/W are already playing cards that have a natural affinity for Venser’s blink ability: Wall of Omens; Sun Titan. Give your Baneslayer (or Wurmcoil Engine) faux-Vigilance, or save it from the Day of Judgment you’re about to cast. Move your Journey to Nowhere onto a more relevant target. Untap a land to keep counter-magic or removal mana open.

It only takes three activations to put him on his ultimate. Forget about the minus ability (although it’s there if you can capitalize on it). If you can protect Venser for just three of your opponent’s turns—not such a tall order if you consider the type of cards you’re likely already playing—you’ll be exiling permanents every time you cast a spell (whether that spell resolves or not).

Here’s a rough list, which I’ll be testing a bit this weekend:

2 Condemn
4 Preordain

3 Sea Gate Oracle
4 Wall of Omens

1 Negate
4 Mana Leak
1 Deprive
1 Stoic Rebuttal
2 Journey to Nowhere

4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
3 Day of Judgment
2 Venser, the Sojourner

2 Sun Titan
1 Wurmcoil Engine

4 Tectonic Edge
4 Celestial Colonnade
4 Glacial Fortress
6 Plains
8 Island

No sideboard as of yet, but I’d expect to play the usual suspects: some number of Flashfreeze and/or Celestial Purge, and possibly Oust (for Fauna Shaman and other problem creatures that don’t tend to attack and thus are not susceptible to Condemn).

Other cards to consider (main or side, probably main) are Into the Roil and Ratchet Bomb. Into the Roil seems like it would be particularly strong in an unknown metagame as a nice catch-all. Ratchet Bomb is retrievable with Sun Titan and seems like just the type of card that you might want to reuse.

Whether you like Venser or not, Scars of Mirrodin has brought with it a TON of options, in addition to pushing some huge players out of the format (remember Bloodbraid Elf?). Now is a great time to not only look at the new cards but to also take a look back at the cards that might not have been as practical in a format like AlaraM10Zendikar Standard. There may be some hidden gems amongst the cards we all passed over while trying to fight against a turn-two Putrid Leech. I know a certain Dragonmaster who’s been eyeballing a modern-day Ophidian for its new-Standard potential…

Yo! MTG Taps! Episode 13 – Now Available!

Yo! MTG Taps! Episode 13 – Respect the Eye is now available for download!

Check it out over on MTGCast!

We talk about the first official Rise of the Eldrazi spoiler, Kozilek, Butcher of Truth! (Get your Eyes of Ugin!!) Also: GP Madrid and the SCG $5k Richmond.

See Kozilek spoiled on Magic Arcana!

Is Walking Atlas – the new Serendib Efreet, or something more?

Mananation – Eldrazi basic land playmats (check out that artwork!)

GP Madrid Coverage

SCG $5k – Richmond Coverage

**We now have STICKERS! Send us your mailing address and we’ll get ‘em out to you!**

Baltimore Open – March 13th. For more info, to go:

Contact us at yomtgtaps [at] gmail [dot] com

Leave us a voicemail! 331-MTG-TAPS

Follow us on Twitter!
@yomtgtaps (BHJ and Joey)
@affinityforblue (Joey)

Check out Yo! MTG Taps! on YouTube!

Become a fan of Yo! MtG TAPS! on Facebook!

Visit Joey’s blog:

Visit BigHeadJoe’s blog:

Chapin’s List (UW Control)

Pro-Tour San Diego: Patrick Chapin and his Blue-White Control deck were featured in a video deck tech late on Friday evening. See below:

So, sideboard notwithstanding, I wasn’t far off. Looks like Chapin ditched the Calcite Snappers (regrettably, considering the moniker I used for the deck in my last post), but otherwise a very similar list to what I have above. I’m actually surprised how close I was to getting the same manabase—I’m only off by +1 Scalding Tarn. Chapin does indeed run 2 copies each of Mind Spring and Martial Coup, along with maindeck Flashfreeze and Celestial Purge.

Notice also the FOUR copies of Cancel in Chapin’s deck.






At first, this seems a bit odd. Before now, the problem with most of the playable counterspells (Flashfreeze, Negate, Essence Scatter) was that they were narrow, which often made it difficult to have the correct counterspell for the situation. Enter Worldwake: along come Jace, the Mind Sculptor AND Halimar Depths—both of which help to correct this problem. With these cards, it is much, much easier to have the right counter at the right time. Still, Chapin & co. chose to run 4 copies of Cancel. Why?

The “problem” with Cancel has always been blatantly obvious. Counterspell=good. Cancel=bad. The only difference between the cards is the extra 1 mana. It might not seem like much, but imagine if the price of a staple such as gasoline increased by 33% (oh, wait…it has). Sucks, right? But Worldwake has also gifted us with a means of making up that difference: the mother-lovin’, Everflowing Chalice. As Chapin explains in the video, Chalice may be the “best signet ever,” due to its versatility.

For the curious, here are the differences from my original list:

-3 Calcite Snapper
-2 Negate
-2 Path to Exile
-1 Day of Judgment
-1 Scalding Tarn

+2 Cancel
+2 Flashfreeze
+2 Martial Coup
+2 Mind Spring
+1 Celestial Purge

Lastly, here’s Chapin’s maindeck (as he had it arranged in the deck tech):

Jace and friend

Photo by Alexander Shearer

[2] Essence Scatter
[2] Flashfreeze
[4] Cancel
[4] Jace, the Mind Sculptor
[2] Mind Spring
[2] Martial Coup
[4] Tectonic Edge
[4] Treasure Hunt
[3] Oblivion Ring
[1] Celestial Purge
[3] Day of Judgment
[1] Path to Exile
[2] Arid Mesa
[1] Negate
[1] Iona, Shield of Emeria
[4] Everflowing Chalice
[4] Celestial Colonnade
[4] Glacial Fortress
[4] Plains
[1] Scalding Tarn
[3] Island
[4] Halimar Depths

EDIT: Added Chapin’s sideboard:

[3]  Baneslayer Angel
[1]  Elspeth, Knight-Errant
[1]  Essence Scatter
[2]  Flashfreeze
[3]  Kor Firewalker
[1]  Mind Control
[2]  Negate
[1]  Perimeter Captain
[1]  Plains

Snapper Control for Standard

Just as a quick aside, I thought I’d post the list I’ve been working on for post-Worldwake Standard.

[3] Calcite Snapper
[1] Iona, Shield of Emeria

[3] Negate
[2] Essence Scatter
[2] Cancel

[3] Oblivion Ring
[3] Path to Exile
[4] Day of Judgment

OTHER (12)
[4] Jace, the Mind Sculptor
[4] Everflowing Chalice
[4] Treasure Hunt

LANDS (27):
[4] Halimar Depths
[4] Tectonic Edge
[4] Celestial Colonnade
[4] Glacial Fortress
[3] Island
[4] Plains
[2] Scalding Tarn
[2] Arid Mesa

This list is inspired by a deck I watched Patrick Chapin play on the Magic Cruise last week. I didn’t get the list from him or anything, but I watched a couple of games and I liked what I saw.

UPDATE: Based on the coverage of PT San Diego, Chapin & crew (including Gabriel Nassif and possibly Mark Herberholz) may also be running maindeck Martial Coup and Mind Spring. I’ll update with the official list(s) sometime this weekend (as soon as I can get ’em)!

I don’t have an exact sideboard as of yet, but I’m thinking 4 Spreading Seas, 3-4 Flashfreeze, some amount of Celestial Purges, maybe a Luminarch Ascension or two. Into the Roil seems to be a great catch-all, especially for when a planeswalker slides past your Negates/Cancels; then again, a 4th copy of Oblivion Ring should do the trick (but I sure do love the cantrip option on Into the Roil). I need to test the maindeck some more to find the weak spots before I get a good idea of how the sideboard is going to end up.


So far, with no sideboard, I’ve been loving this deck. Originally I was thinking Esper was the way to go, but the Jace/Halimar Depths/Treasure Hunt engine makes Esper Charm a lot less necessary—and let’s not kid ourselves, Esper Charm is the best reason to play UWB. Cutting the black from the deck takes a lot of pressure off the manabase, freeing up space for Tectonic Edge. Having now actually played with Celestial Colonnade, it’s better than I expected. Vigilance on a manland in a control deck is just SO. GOOD.


To be honest, I’ve got mixed feelings about blue right now. Don’t get me wrong; it’s good. Really good. I love it. But the problem is, so does everyone else. While that won’t stop me from playing the decks I want to play, it’s never as much fun to play a deck when everyone else is playing it, too. On the other hand, maybe I should look at this as an opportunity to focus my efforts on how to edge out the pseudo-mirror match; that’s a skill I’ve always avoided, simply because it was not as enjoyable to play against a deck similar to my own.

Nevertheless, I’m really excited to see what the pro players have been brewing up for Pro Tour San Diego this weekend. Keep up with the coverage over at the mothership!

A Look at Goblin Sligh in 2002.

Goblins! A Look at Goblin Sligh in Type II

This article was originally published on December 24, 2002 on the now-defunct (conveniently archived by the Internet Wayback Machine).

First of all, for those of you who don’t know me (which would be pretty much everyone, as this is my first article on a MTG website), my name is Joe Pasco and I’ve been playing Magic on and off since Revised Edition. While I started off playing green, I was a red mage through-and-through by the autumn of 1997, when I built my first Sligh deck (I had never heard of “Sligh” then, I just called it a “Direct Damage” deck—but my friends who could rarely win against it called it “The God Deck”). I stopped playing for about 2 years after that, returning for Urza’s Destiny and Mercadian Masques, and after that I stopped playing MTG until the release of Judgment just a few months ago. With all the Wurms and Mongrels running around (or should I say “flying around”?), I was too distracted to even think about playing red (summer just brings out the green mage in me). I hadn’t played a Sligh deck since 1997 and honestly, I missed it.


Since I play mostly Type II, I decided that I’d try to build a viable T2 Sligh deck that could romp with the rest of the big decks out there right now, and hopefully smash some face a good percentage of the time, too. After browsing some forums and getting some ideas, I came up with a new T2 Sligh deck based around—what else?—Goblins! The release of Onslaught in early October brought us some premium goodies as far as Goblins go: Goblin Sledder, Goblin Taskmaster, Goblin Piledriver, and Goblin Sharpshooter. Brightstone Ritual, Skirk Prospector, and Goblin Pyromancer didn’t look too bad either. Of course, though not a goblin, I can’t forget about everyone’s favorite new reason to play red: Blistering Firecat.

Here’s what I came up with:

Creatures (25)
4 Raging Goblin
4 Goblin Sledder
4 Goblin Taskmaster
4 Goblin Piledriver
4 Sparksmith
3 Goblin Sharpshooter
2 Blistering Firecat

Other Spells (15)
4 Reckless Charge
4 Shock
4 Lava Dart
3 Violent Eruption

Land (20)
4 Wooded Foothills
4 Bloodstained Mire
11 Mountains
1 Goblin Burrows

4 Naturalize
3 Tranquility
4 Smother
2 Swamps
2 Forest

I decided against using Goblin Pyromancer, Brightstone Ritual, and Skirk Prospector. The Goblin Pyromancer is just too slow, and odds are that if you’ve got that many goblins on the table, you’re winning anyway. As for the Ritual and the Prospector, first of all, they work against each other. Sure, you could add Blaze to the deck, cast a Brightstone Ritual and then sac all your goblins to power up a huge burn spell, but that’s just too risky. Other than that, there just aren’t that may times when this deck needs extra mana; it’s a cheap, fast, aggressive deck, and while these cards could speed it up, it wouldn’t be until later in the game when it’s really not necessary. There are better, more aggressive cards to be played.

Some explanations:

Raging Goblin: Nearly always what you want to cast on turn one. Usually draws first blood. Also good on turn three if you’ve cast a turn two Goblin Piledriver.
Goblin Sledder: One of the best goblins ever. This guy totally messes with your opponent’s “combat math.” Also great when combined with Goblin Sharpshooter.
Goblin Taskmaster: Another one-drop goblin to boost your Goblin Piledriver, he can also Morph and can pump any goblin for 1R.
Goblin Piledriver: Your key goblin, this guy is capable of dealing massive amounts of damage unexpectedly during one turn. Combined with Reckless Charge and some other attacking goblins, he can be better than a Blistering Firecat.
Sparksmith is amazing. His key role is to clear the way for your Goblin Piledriver so that you can get in that maximum amount of damage.
Goblin Sharpshooter: Probably the most fun card to play in this deck, depending on the situation. Any creature on the table with a toughness of 1 can just start making funeral arrangements once the Sharpshooter is active. Never has your wrist gotten such a workout (well, maybe not never): “Shoot your Grim Lavamancer, untap, shoot your Voidmage Prodigy, untap, shoot your Basking Rootwalla, untap, shoot your Merfolk Looter, untap. What’s that? A Blistering Firecat? Shoot it with my Sharpshooter, untap.” Ridiculous.
Blistering Firecat: Do I really need to explain this guy? His only drawback is that in a deck meant to be as aggressive as this one, waiting until the 4th turn is sometimes too slow. Nevertheless, this guy is almost ALWAYS trouble.
Reckless Charge: A key card to the deck, this card allows you to attack on turn three with a Goblin Piledriver and up to 3 other goblins for up to 13 damage on one turn. Four copies is a must.
Shock: One mana for two damage to any target? And it’s an Instant? Why would you not have this in your red deck? (Considering it’s the closest thing Sligh’s got to a Lightning Bolt anymore, I would hope you’d run 4 copies)
Lava Dart: Protection against any 1-toughness creatures such as an opposing Blistering Firecat, the Dart can also be flashed back by sacrificing a mountain if you’re in a pinch. Believe it or not, this card has won me games more than I ever would have thought.
Violent Eruption: Four Instant-speed damage divided however you choose; with a Madness cost of 1RR, to boot. A great finisher or sometimes a board-clearer to make way for a Goblin Piledriver & friends.
Goblin Burrows: A tribal land that speeds up your deck even more by giving your goblins an extra +2/+0 boost. Not a great card to draw on your first turn, but nevertheless it can be very helpful in allowing you to win the game before your opponent can gain any sort of board control.
Fetchlands (Wooded Foothills, Bloodstained Mire): If you haven’t ehard how great these guys are, I advise you to check them out. They’re great for thinning your deck so that you draw your business spells instead of land. They also help stabilize your mana base and allow you to include cards like Naturalize, Tranquility, and Smother in the sideboard.

Naturalize, Tranquility: Enchantments and artifacts like Engineered Plague and Caltrops can shut down this deck—these two sideboard goodies are how you prevent that from happening. Seven cards to deal with enchantments/artifacts might seem excessive, but two of the most dominating decks are named after the enchantments that they’re based around: Mirari’s Wake and Astral Slide/Lightning Rift. Enchantments such as Oversold Cemetery aren’t all that great to be sitting across the table from either (especially when you’re using a Sparksmith to send creatures to the graveyard and your opponent just keeps pulling them back out).
Smother: There are just too many creatures running around in the metagame that are prime targets for this card. Against U/G Madness, you’ve got their Wild Mongrels and Wurm tokens taken care of; Psychatog is history; and face-downs like Grinning Demon and Exalted Angel will have to be hard-cast to get past this card.

This deck is meant to come out fast and hard; drop a goblin on turn one, another on turn
two (or maybe even two goblins on turn two, if they’re both one-drops—which is very possible with this deck, considering that there are 12 one-drop goblins), and then on turn three you explode with a Goblin Piledriver and a Reckless Charge on the Piledriver, attacking for up to 13 damage on turn three. This is the optimum situation of course, but it can happen (in fact, it’s much more likely than a lot of other Type II combos out there right now).

A very wise Sligh player once said, “if you’re blocking, you’re losing.” That’s definitely the case with this deck. The important thing is not to deal with your opponent’s threats, but to deal with your opponent’s answers to your threats. Cards like Engineered Plague, Caltrops, and Circle of Protection: Red are all defensive cards that are trouble for your deck, but if you’ve got ways to deal with them, it forces your opponent to find another way to deal with your threats. This is obviously where the sideboard comes in. Naturalize and Tranquility are fantastic ways to get rid of cards like E. Plague and Caltrops. Your opponent probably sideboarded those cards in on game two to deal with the massive amounts of goblins in your deck, so chances are they’re not running 4 of them. If you can get rid of what they’ve got, they’re left with little defense. This enchantment-hate is also vital considering the current metagame. If your opponent’s Wake deck can’t keep a Wake in play, or if you can keep Astral Slide and Lightning Rift off the table, Goblin Sligh will have no problem beating your opponent senseless while his life total drops from 20 to 0.

After some testing (vs MBC, UG Opposition, and another Sligh—I won about 50% vs MBC and UG Opposition, and about 85% vs Sligh), I found that this deck was a little too heavy on the goblins, and perhaps not heavy enough on the burn. I found that I wasn’t using the Goblin Taskmaster’s pump ability very often, and Goblin Burrows wasn’t helping as much as I would have liked either. Goblin Sharpshooter was only effective against deck with a lot of small creatures (elves, soldiers, rootwallas, squirrels, etc; against decks like these, the Sharpshooter was a bomb); therefore I decided to move it to the sideboard. Because of the deck’s dependency on not only creatures but on goblins specifically, I decided to make a few changes that would keep Engineered Plague and other tribal-hosers from being as effective. I also decided to add a little more burn to the deck; there were too many times when I was getting my opponent down to less than 4 life and then just waiting to draw some direct damage. Here are the changes to the maindeck:

-4 Goblin Taskmaster
-1 Lava Dart
-1 Sparksmith
-3 Goblin Sharpshooter
-1 Goblin Burrows

+4 Grim Lavamancer
+3 Firebolt
+2 Blistering Firecat
+1 Mountain

Grim Lavamancer is just too good to not include in this deck; previously being so focused on goblins caused me to overlook the quality of this guy. A Shock every turn? Fantastic. Grimmy also has great synergy with the fetchlands.

I was depating about how many Blistering Firecats to include in the original version of this deck. In the end, I found that 4 copies is definitely key to the deck. Opponents have to find a way to deal with him; he’s just too dangerous to ignore. At worst, those Engineered Plagues will be set first to “cats” instead of to “goblins.”

At first, I thought Firebolt might be too slow, considering that it can only be cast on your turn. However, there’s enough Instant-speed burn in the deck to protect you on your opponent’s turn; also, if the game ends up lasting longer than expected, Firebolt’s flashback ability can help you end the game where Shock was not able to.

As far as the sideboard goes, two of each basic land (2 Swamps, 2 Forests) was just unnecessary; one of each is plenty. Despite the enchantment-heavy metagame, 7 cards in the sideboard for a deck that is supposed to be aggressive is just too much. After having removed two of the basic lands from the sideboard, cutting 2 Tranquility now makes room for 4 Goblin Sharpshooters.

Here’s the final decklist:

Creatures (23)
4 Raging Goblin
4 Goblin Sledder
4 Grim Lavamancer
4 Goblin Piledriver
3 Smarksmith
4 Blistering Firecat

Other Spells (16)
4 Reckless Charge
4 Shock
3 Lava Dart
3 Violent Eruption
3 Firebolt

Land (21)
4 Wooded Foothills
4 Bloodstained Mire
13 Mountains

4 Naturalize
1 Tranquility
4 Smother
1 Swamps
1 Forest
4 Goblin Sharpshooter

I’ve seen some other similar decks using cards such as Barbarian Ring and Volcanic Hammer in the maindeck, and Threaten in the sideboard. You can give those cards a try if you want. I don’t like Barbarian Ring because it relies on having threshold, and while you’re putting tons of cards in the graveyard, you’re also removing them with the Grim Lavamancers, so threshold is just not very likely. That in addition to the fact that you’re probably taking a reasonable amount of damage from the fetchlands and I say Barbarian Ring is just unnecessary. As for Volcanic Hammer, it’s just more burn; if you can find room, I say go for it. I just like Instants better than Sorceries (don’t we all?) so I’d rather play with Lava Dart and Shock, and use Firebolt as my only Sorcery-speed burn. Threaten, on the other hand, is definitely worth trying. I haven’t tested it yet as I can’t seem to find room for it, but with all of the wurms hitting tables, being able to steal one for a turn can probably win you the game. Too bad it’s not an Instant; it would be great to be able to steal an opposing 6/6 wurm to use as a blocker, perhaps getting rid of two creatures at once. Regardless, it’s worth a shot, especially if you’re used to seeing a lot of creatures on the other side of the board.

Thanks for reading my first MTG article. Any comments are welcome and very much appreciated. I’m always willing to hear someone else’s opinions, so feel free to send me some constructive criticism.