On Bloodbraid Elf. (Yes, I’m going there.)

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the (unlikely) banning of Bloodbraid Elf from Standard. While I don’t think I need to explain the perspective of those calling for said banning, those opposed seem to collectively feel that the card “is not too strong,” is “beatable,” and that “if you don’t play the card, you don’t get a vote” (that last part can be attributed to Patrick Chapin).

As you may be aware, Bigheadjoe and I have mentioned a petition to ban BBE on our podcast, Yo! MTG Taps! However, despite our annoyance at the prevalence of Jund decks, this petition was created as a combination joke-meets-social-experiment; we weren’t actually serious, nor did we expect it to get anywhere.

Nevertheless, I do have something to say on the subject.

Primarily, what does it mean to say a card is “too strong?” Does “too strong” = “unbeatable”? “Extremely difficult to beat?” If so, I do not feel that BBE is too strong.

But if “too strong” means “clearly the best single card in the format, to the point where it is the centerpiece of over 30% of tournament decks,” then yes, absolutely, Bloodbraid Elf is too strong. (and don’t tell me it’s not the centerpiece to the Jund deck, because if you feel that way, you’re fooling yourself.)

The problem with Bloodbraid Elf is not that it is unbeatable. The problem is, anything that reduces variety in the game to this degree makes the game much less fun. I don’t know if that qualifies Bloodbraid Elf as “ban-worthy,” but there is clearly a problem with the presence of this card in the format. Personally, I just don’t think the problem is big enough for Wizards to do anything about it (beyond possible cascade hosers in Rise of the Eldrazi or M11; see also: Great Sable Stag > Faeries/5CC).

I’d like to close with some quotes by LSV on today’s MagicTV, which is what inspired this post:

I think the biggest mistakes are cards that, overall, make less fun than they create.” (2m10s)

Bloodbraid Elf has certainly lessened my enjoyment of the game, and many other players too that I’ve talked to…I wish they hadn’t printed Bloodbraid Elf.” (3m06s)

Yo! MTG Taps! Episode 13 – Now Available!

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


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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

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Yo! MTG Taps! Episode 12 – Now Available!

Yo! MTG Taps! Episode 12 – Worldwake, But Still Groggy is now available for download!


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We talk Pro Tour San Diego; Joe’s PTQ experience (including the “bonehead play of the year”); M11 speculation; and hey, why not some more ranting about Jund? (just a little)

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Yo! MTG Taps! Exclusive Interview with Evan Erwin!

Yo! MTG Taps! MC2 Coverage Part 3 – Evan Erwin: The Man Behind The Magic Show is now available for download!


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In the conclusion of our audio coverage of the Magic Cruise, Joey interviews StarCityGames’ Evan Erwin!

We also hear from local Maryland player Nick Ayd (@lemonayd on Twitter) about his experiences on the Magic Cruise.

*Be sure to check out the MC3, coming up in February 2011!*
http://legionevents.com/magic/mc3

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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.

FOUR!

CANCEL!!

AT THE PRO-TOUR!!!

     

     

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

Yo! MTG Taps! Exclusive Interview with Patrick Chapin, & More!

Yo! MTG Taps! MC2 Coverage Part 2 – Patrick Chapin, the Mind Sculptor is now available for download!


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The second installment of our coverage of the Magic Cruise: An EXCLUSIVE interview with the Innovator himself, Patrick Chapin!

Also includes bonus audio coverage of Patrick’s monologue from the Magic Cruise on the impact of Worldwake!

***EXTRA! EXTRA! DOUBLE-FEATURE FRIDAY!!***

Yo! MTG Taps! Episode 11 – The REAL Episode 11 is also now available for download!

It’s been three weeks since our last “official” episode, and we’ve got a lot to talk about! A bit about the Magic Cruise, BigHeadJoe goes over GP Oakland, and we discuss a little Standard and Worldwake. Also, we have some listener emails and our first listener voicemails!

Be sure to check out the MC3, coming up in February 2011!

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Yo! MTG Taps! Episode 10 – Now Available!

Yo! MTG Taps! Episode 10 – My Lime Pink Shirt is now available for download!


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In this episode, we each go over our 10 favorite cards from Worldwake, and talk about all of the dirty ways to pronounce “Eye of Ugin.”

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Sick of cascade ruining your tournament experience? Sign the petition to ban Bloodbraid Elf here!

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Yo! MTG Taps! Episode 6 – Now Available!

Yo! MTG Taps! Episode 6 – UnderStatements is now available for download!


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Interview and discussion with the winner of Maryland States 2009, Lloyd Frias!

Follow us on Twitter @YoMTGTaps or @AffinityForBlue.

CURRENTLY READING: Jonny Magic & The Card Shark Kids: How a Gang of Geeks Beat the Odds and Stormed Las Vegas.

Maryland State Championships 2009 Tournament Report *1st*

By special guest writer, Lloyd Frias.
Note: Surnames of Lloyd’s opponents have been removed for privacy.

Event: Maryland 2009 State Championships
Date: December 5, 2009
Location: Dream Wizards – Rockville, Maryland

126 players competing

7 Rounds Swiss then Top 8

It was Saturday morning and the snow was falling. My brother Marc tried using the air compressor in our garage to inflate his tires. Well, he tripped. The compressor stopped working and did not function when he tried to restart it. Given these conditions, my brother, the engineer, stated there was the possibility of the device exploding. We unplugged it, put it back in the garage, hoped for the best, and started our journey.

We went to a nearby gas station to add air to the tires. I realized that I didn’t have the directions to the tournament site. We went back to the house and got the directions. (The air compressor was still okay). Yes, we’re off to an auspicious start already.

We arrived at the tournament and the parking lot was slippery. There was a line of people outside at 10:20 AM. We saw a group of players from our local store and waited in company.

In preparation for States, the first step was actually deciding to attend. I’ve been playing off and on since 1994. Until recently, the bulk of my tournament experience is from Extended (post-Necro, pre-rotation) and Vintage. There was also a Vintage tournament up in Philly to which we had considered going. Ultimately, my brother and I chose to attend our first ever States for the fun of the experience.

My tournament deck history includes the following: Wildfire, Forbiddian, Counter-Oath, Keeper/the Deck, Hulk Smash, Control Slaver, Meandeck Gifts. Looking at that list, the obvious is that I have a predisposition to control. I enjoy parrying an opponent’s attacks while setting up a riposte.

Given that context, my deck choice should be no surprise.

Grixis

Main Deck:

Artifacts:
4 Courier’s Capsule

Creatures:
2 Sphinx of Jwar Isle
1 Sphinx of Lost Truths

Instants:
3 Double Negative
2 Flashfreeze
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Terminate
2 Traumatic Visions

Sorceries:
3 Cruel Ultimatum
2 Deathmark
2 Divination
2 Earthquake

Planeswalkers:
1 Chandra Nalaar
1 Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker
1 Sorin Markov

Basic Lands:
4 Island
2 Mountain
4 Swamp

Lands:
4 Crumbling Necropolis
4 Dragonskull Summit
4 Drowned Catacombs
4 Scalding Tarn

Sideboard:
2 Flashfreeze
2 Malakir Bloodwitch
2 Negate
2 Pithing Needle
2 Pyroclasm
4 Spreading Seas
1 Telemin Performance

Since I began playing Standard M10Zen, my deck building has been influenced by various Internets postings, in particular, the articles of Pat Chapin. As you can see, the maindeck is very close to his Wafo-Grixis list.

Since Pat discussed a lot of his card choices in his article, I encourage you to read that article: I can’t explain better. I will explain, however, my variations.

Courier’s Capsule vs. Sign in Blood – The 2 mana draw slot is critical for hitting land drops. In general, Sign in Blood is a stronger card. The double black cost, however, shapes the mana base differently, and I was cautious about the life loss, especially in a burn and aggro meta (Jund, Naya, Boros).

I went with 2 Sphinx of Jwar Isle maindeck as a drop-and-forget win condition. I anticipated expending my counter base forestalling my opponent and would be unable to protect a creature during riposte.

Since I was only running 1 Sphinx of Lost Truths, I wanted to minimize situational cards. Yes, Flashfreeze is awesome and in every green/red matchup I boarded the other 2; however, given my unfamiliarity with States, I played it safe and went with a more well-rounded counter base.

I went with a 2 Divination/2 Deathmark split. Moving the Deathmarks to the maindeck freed up sideboard slots and would be good in the anticipated meta. The adding of more removal also enabled me to draw into more answers for opposing threats.

Chandra Nalaar was more flexible than a 3rd Earthquake. In addition to frying Great Sable venison and singeing an opponent, you can shoot down a Walletslayer.

Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker was there instead of a second Sorin Markov. The noted weakness of this deck is non-creature permanent destruction. Bolas fixes that problem, whether it be Valakut, Emeria, other planeswalkers.

Onto the matches:

Round 1 – Ben B. – Jund

Game 1 Jund does its thing and rolls me.
In: 4 Spreading Seas, 2 Flashfreeze
Out: 3 Double Negative, 2 Earthquake, 1 Sorin Markov

Game 2 Spreading Seas stalls him until I gain control and win.

Game 3 I landstall, and he overwhelms me.

0-1

Round 2 – Conor M. – Jund

Game 1 He stalls out and I take over after Cruel.
In: as in Round 1
Out: 3 Double Negative, 2 Traumatic Visions, 1 Sorin Markov

Game 2 Spreading Seas and lack of land draws stall him and forces him to play unkicked Goblin Ruinblasters to apply pressure. I clear the board and stabilize with Cruel. He runs out of gas, and control is mine.

1-1

Round 3 – Greg Q. – Up Down Dralnu
Initially I thought he was playing Dredge when he started cycling Architects of Will. Apparently, it was Gavin Verhey’s Up Down Dralnu.

Game 1 – I resolve Sorin and drop him to 10. I bolt, drain 2, and end with Cruel
In: 2 Pithing Needle, 2 Negate
Out: 2 Flashfreeze, 2 Deathmark

Game 2 – I draw dead and get pounded by Vampire Nighthawk and a Sphinx of Jwar Isle.
In: Telemin Performance
Out: Traumatic Visions (I think)

Game 3 – After seeing Sphinx of Jwar Isle game 2, I decide to see if I can steal his to add to my Sphinx collection. I resolve Telemin Performance, mill a Terramorphic Expense and get…Vampire Nighthawk. I wouldn’t have minded so much if I had milled more than 1 card at least. Ah well. We trade Nighthawk life swings. I get a Sphinx of Jwar Isle on the board and he sits back on defense. At this time, I was at 19 and he was at 25. I play Sorin and drop him to 10. I Cruel, then I terminate his Nighthawk and swing with Sphinx for game.

2-1

Round 4 – David Z. – Vampires

Game 1 – I draw dead, and his minions suck me dry.
In: 2 Negate, 2 Pyroclasm
Out: 2 Flashfreeze, 2 Deathmark

Game 2 and 3 – I Cruel and take over from there.

3-1

Round 5 – Nathaniel C. – Naya

Game 1 – I answer his threats. I set up Cruel and finish with double Bolt headshots.
In: 2 Pithing Needle, 2 Flashfreeze, 2 Malakir Bloodwitch
Out: 2 Double Negative, 2 Sphinx of Jwar Isle, 2 Traumatic Visions

Game 2 – I stall and his Luminarch Ascension gets to 4 counters. Between angels, soldiers and Elspeth, I drop from 17 to 0 in one turn.

Game 3 – He drops a Baneslayer. I drop a Malakir Bloodwitch to hold that off. He plays Luminarch Ascension. I drop Pithing Needle to shut it down. I play Sorin and drain him until I get a removal for Baneslayer at which point he’s at 11. 2 turns later thanks to Sorin and Bloodwitch, I down him.

4-1

Round 6 – Billy K. – Naya

Game 1 – He gets Baneslayer active. I’m at 6 and he’s at 28 before I deal with it. I play Sorin and drop him back to 10. He fetches to go to 9 to thin out his deck for threats. I drain for 2 with Sorin to put me at 8 and him at 7. He has an empty hand, so I Earthquake him for lethal.
Sideboarding as in Round 5

Game 2 – I Cruel twice. Then I play Bloodwitch and Sorin to close.

5-1

Round 7 – Matt D. – Jund

Game 1 – I forestall him and hit 2 Cruels to drop him to 9. I bolt and then Earthquake for 6.
Sideboarding as Round 2

Game 2 – I cut off red sources with Spreading Seas. I hit 2 Cruels to drop him to 8. I drop Bolas and begin destroying red sources to ramp to ultimate. I hold off his creatures as he tries to stop Bolas with Lightning Bolts. At some point I drop a Sphinx of Jwar Isle. After getting an opening I drop him to 3 with Sphinx and have Bolas at 10 as I pass the turn. With my board position so overwhelming, he effectively concedes the match to me: on his turn, plays Sprouting Thrinax and asks me to finish him with Bolas’ ultimate, so he can go down in style.

6-1

Top 8 – Jacob W. – RDW

Game 1 – Red Deck Wins
In: 2 Flashfreeze, 2 Pithing Needle, 2 Pyroclasm
Out:2 Deathmark, 1 Chandra Nalaar, 2 Earthquake, 1 Nicol Bolas

Game 2 – I stall him and drain with Sorin to stall him further. At 3 Life, I drop his life to 10 with Sorin, I Cruel and then take over from there.

Game 3 – He stalls out on 2 Teetering Peeks. I hit him with 2 Cruels but have trouble finishing him: I do not draw another kill card until there are only 4 cards left in my library. I play nearly every land in my deck by that time. Eventually, I play a Sphinx of Jwar Isle to seal the game and match.

7-1

Top 4 – Jim B. – Naya

Game 1 – I weather the onslaught down to 6 life. I play Sorin, drop him to 10, and follow with Cruel.
Sideboarding as Round 5

Game 2 – Malakir Bloodwitch holds off Baneslayer all day. I play Chandra and fry the Angel. I Terminate the next Angel. Between Chandra and Bloodwitch I finish him off in 3 turns.

8-1

Finals – Steve K. – Jund

Game 1 – I blunt his offense, while ramping to Cruel. I use Sorin to siphon life and finish with an Earthquake.
Sideboarding as Round 2

Game 2 – Spreading Seas hamstrings his offense. I Cruel to disarm him further and knock him to 14. I lay Sphinx of Jwar Isle and swing to 9. I have a full grip with Cruel in hand along with counter and removal spells. Next turn I plan to swing with Sphinx and finish with Cruel. He draws and concedes.

On a final note, in addition to the standard States prizes, Dream Wizards also awarded 18 packs of either Zendikar or M10. I went with the M10 packs. The second pack I opened had a foil Baneslayer Angel.

In closing, I wanted to thank the following people:

Pat Chapin for another excellent deck.

The Rotunda/Amazing Spiral crew for helping me field test my initial build going into States.

The Legends crew for your support throughout the Tournament.

Michael P. Hantsch for the peer critique of my draft of this report.

My younger brother, Marc, for driving and lending me his cards.

Thanks for reading.
Lloyd Frias