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By: CalmLittleBuddy, Christopher M. Dansereau
Apr 29 2015 11:00am
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The decades are usually defined by their great battles. This decade is no different. It is with a quivering spleen that I present you with:

SHUFFLE SCUFFLE I: The Price for Manhood!

PLANESWALKER83

 Dack Fayden

vs.

calmlittlebuddy

Slime Molding

(crickets)

What has driven us to this point of no return??? Standard. Grand. Prix!!!! Yes. Yes, my friends. If you want to make it as a champion cardboard jockey, you must play against the best. It's often times very helpful to know the person you are playing against. You can get a consistent quality of match. As long as that player is strong enough to present a real challenge, it's a great way to not only practice but evaluate.

Planeswalker83 is a strong player. He has experience in many formats, and is part of a testing group that has produced some top 8 finishers and tournament winners. Can't beat that! No, seriously. I can't beat that. I can try, but I'll lose.

In all seriousness, testing in a controlled environment is necessary.

Lesson Eleventy-One of Tournament Preparation: Control During Testing.

When testing, you want to minimize the variables and distractions. There's a difference between practice and testing. Testing needs to be serious and focused. You are not playing to test your skill, but to evaluate the deck. Of course, if you are not very skilled with the deck or type of deck, the testing will be flawed. Likewise if your opponent is not skilled with the deck they are representing, the testing will be flawed.

You need to test your potential deck and tweak it, playing against other top tier decks of the format. Having another player willing to test multiple matches with the same archetype is invaluable. Of course, Planeswalker and I only got in two matches at the time of writing this, but everything has to start somewhere right? Plus, this is merely laying groundwork. The tournament is a few months away. There's time to get more testing in I'm pretty sure. Two games really isn't anywhere close to sufficient. 

Let's take a look at the deck I played.

 

We will see in the deck tech video, I made one change and it does show up in match 2. I moved out End Hostilities for Crux of Fate. I kept wanting Crux of Fate every time I sided in the Dragons. So, I figure it's great against a format heavy with Flying Weasels, it avoids the damage from Thunderbreak Regent, and if we're not facing Dragons and we have Dragonlord Dromoka on the board, we can kill on non-dragons with it.

One card I know will raise some eyebrows in the wrong direction is Assault Formation.

Assault Formation

This card is good. It is a force multiplier. The more creatures you have on board, the stronger it gets. The main reason I'm playing it is that it's only two mana. Now I have an enchantment for the opponent to board in for, which will probably not see the light of day the next game.

Drawing two is really not great, so it's a miser copy I can tutor for if I think it's necessary. Not only does it make Sylvan Caryatid a legit endgame card, it turns all my big butt friends like Sidisi, Undead Vizier into face pounding supernauts. Picture Dragonlord Dromoka with this card in play! It makes Siege Rhino bang enough to trade with all the 5 toughness blockers folks cleverly added to their deck.  The last ability pumps not only their toughness, but their damage as well due to damage being assigned by toughness. It doesn't buff the power, and so avoids Abzan Charm's removal clause if I use the pump on some smaller creatures. The more creatures you have, the better it gets.

Side note: I'm so tempted to design a Dragons deck with 4 Hornet Nest and 4 Assault Formation

Side side note: Assault Formation will most likely not be in my tournament deck.

So, here's the deck tech vid for more information. Note, I call Jacob Wilson, 'Josh' Wilson in this video, but only once. I know his name isn't Josh, but sometimes I pretend it is, just to see what life would be like. Okay, here's a full rundown:

 

What do you think, eh? Oh it's not going to set the Magic world on fire or anything, but it is going to get a lot tighter over the next month.

Planeswalker and I agreed to meet up digitally on Monday or Tuesday of last week. Part of the problem was I think I said Monday when I meant Tuesday. So, I didn't see him early on Tuesday night. I figured I'd play a few matches while waiting. I recorded many of them, and while many of the matches were wins, the quality of play was meh, and about six people quit after the first game. Some because they won and knew their deck would get killed post sideboard. They wanted to get away thinking they were awesome Magic players, so they quit before giving my deck a fair chance to board in answers.

I'm so close to a rant about inappropriate quitting.

Anger of the Gods

RUN!!!

I know we all have to do it sometimes, but we all know when it's a chickensplit move versus a time thing. I've had to quit immediately with no chat explanation due to wife aggro, but I at least try to do it at a time where it's obviously not a rage-loss or hide from game 2 thing. Plus I play Abzan Control, so unless you're UB based Control, it's not like any matchup is terrible post board. It's those linear win decks that know game 2 is a crushing defeat vs control that always quit after their game one win. At least Mono Red players always seem eager to play another game no matter what.

Well, I guess I didn't control that rant. I think I tried.

I had other players quit after losing the first game, knowing their deck got worse post side board. I actually don't mind that as much because it at least says 'yeah you got me'. I can understand quitting out of anger at losing. Quitting out of fear of losing is cowardly.

Anyways, that's what I get for lurking in the Tournament Practice room. I did manage to get one decent match recorded. I play against a very aggressive Temur player. At one point I comment that I think I'm playing against a five year old. I didn't mean it the way it sounded. Sometimes I say stuff that makes sense in my head, and actually it sounds insulting. What I meant is that a five year old kid would love a deck with all Dragons and Superpowered Plansewalkers, and deadly rainbow monkeys. Not that the player's skill level is that of a five year old. Though the aggressive lines he/she takes definitely have that childlike appeal.

Game one I punt, forgetting early to play a land (I don't even notice during the game), and later refusing to put a Satyr Wayfinder on the board, which may have given me the extra 2 damage I needed to clean out his Temur clock. Games two and three, I'm not super tight but I manage to avoid game losing errors.

This match made me want to discuss Thoughtseize a little bit. One of the major lessons I am taking away from this long period of preparation is that learning to play the powerful but subtle cards correctly wins games. Or the reverse of that, not learning to play them loses games. Thunderbreak Regent is a powerful card, but it's pretty straightforward to play. Point it at your opponent and say "gimmie"! Thoughtseize would be the most powerful card in Standard if it also told you the correct card to pick in any situation. Thoughtseize needs a user's manual. So, I wrote one.

Is This Your Card?

A Short Guide to Thoughtseize

Thoughtseize

  • Thoughtseize comes with the default mode set to 'take their best card' turned on. It is set this way to make Thoughtseize playable at any skill level. You can leave Thoughtseize in default mode and still get value almost every time you play it!
  • Never take a card using Thoughtseize before thinking for at least 10 seconds. Always ask "Am I 100% certain this is the card to take?" There's no 'take backsies'. Sorry!
  • Helpful Tip: Look at the opponent's lands (and other mana sources) before deciding which card to choose. If they're 3 or more turns away from casting their most powerful card, consider selecting a high impact card they can play this coming turn, or soon thereafter.
  • Thoughtseize can be used to deal with pesky cards for which you do not have an answer. See that terrifying enchantment you can't remove once it's on the battlefield? Take it now with Thoughtseize!
  • Thoughtseize loses power as the number of cards in your opponent's hand diminishes. If your opponent is 'hell bent' - no cards in hand, drawing 1 card per turn of the top of the deck, with no reasonable card draw spells in their library - Thoughtseize becomes 'swimmer's anchor'. Basically, you need to toss it because it's just dead weight.
  • If your opponent has very few cards in hand and a lot of card draw spells, you can hold your Thoughtseize until the dig for something good. They'll refill their hand soon enough! Then you can Thoughtseize them into oblivion!
  • Use Thoughtseize to clear the way against opponents with removal spells (or counter spells) before playing that big threat!
  • Fun Fact: Did you know you can Thoughtseize yourself? That may sound silly, but you may find yourself in a situation where discarding something in your hand is more important than taking something from your opponent.
  • Did your opponent mulligan to five? Thoughtseize immediately! A mulligan looks 1,000% worse when you take away the best card from it!
  • WARNING: Thoughtseize will cost two life points if it resolves! Not recommended for use against hyper aggressive decks, Two life points can be the difference between a win and a loss.
  • Instant speed spells can be fired off in response to your Thoughtseize. Casting Thoughtseize into open mana may force your opponent to play an instant before they are ready. Sometimes before you are ready! Always watch those mana sources!
  • Thoughtseize not only takes a card, but gives you all the information you need about your opponent's hand. Cast it before you make any decisions for the turn.
  • Thoughtseize costs one Black mana. That's the perfect price! It' is cheaper than most removal, counter or creature spells. Why Silence the Believers that (Strombreath Dragon) when you can Thoughtseize it for one quarter of the price! Plus, your opponent will almost always have to pay more than one mana to counter it. Now that's value!

We hope you enjoy your brand new Thoughtseize! Warranty not recognized by any state, country, town, city, national government or interplanetary organization. Offer is restricted to four copies per deck. Void where prohibited. Some restrictions may apply.

Thoughtseize is like stealing. Everyone loves to steal stuff, but no one loves getting caught. It's grand theft magic. Welcome to felony land, punk.

Later that evening as I hopped on the make a quick change to my deck, Planeswalker83 popped up in chat and we were off to the slap tank. Match 1 features a Game 1 where I get out fast, thanks to two early Thoughtseizeeses and some power. Game 2 is a bit anti-climactic, as he didn't draw what he needed. Still, I make some interesting choices and questionable lines to rail against in the comments section!

Match 2 I call "Asleep at the Wheel". Game 1 I refuse to see even obvious lines, like not playing removal into Valorous Stance, or Bile Blighting his Seeker of the Way while he's tapped out. The culmination is at the very end where I'm pretty sure that if I take a conservative line I have the game locked up, but I swing for the fences, refusing to even think that my opponent has at least 10 live draws that win on the spot. Not to mention if I'd activated Assault Formation one turn earlier, I probably had this game even using the aggressive line. Live and not learn.

Game 2 is quite epic, but again at the crucial points in the game I abandon IHOP (Information. Hedge. Order. Play.), and misread his sideboard plan even though it's glaringly obvious it's transformative (he even told me he morphs into control in games 2 and 3, and I just didn't believe him after not seeing much control in Game 2 of Match 1). I hate to blame it on fatigue, because I was sharp enough in match 1, so even with it being late in my evening and having run through a lot of matches already, I can comfortably say I lacked the focus for a longer run. Not a good sign with a 2 day tournament coming up. If you've ever wanted to cast Treasure Cruise for free, watch game 2 for the Magic the Gathering Card Drawing Clinic PW83 puts down on me.

I will say this, I think his list might be ahead of the curve. Folks have been searching for a solid Jeskai list since October. I think this may be it. Hopefully he'll post it in his next article. The shift to counter magic would makes changing to the anti-tokens strategy look stupid. Had there been a game three, I'm not sure what he would have played. I probably would have gone back to the side board plan from Match 1, and work with one Dromoka.

What have we learned? Crux of Fate gets countered by Disdainful Stroke, even late at night when you forget Disdainful Stroke is in the opponent's deck. Is Jeskai a good match up for Abzan Control? Putting Planeswalker83's unique build aside, I think Abzan Control is a heavy favorite versus garden variety Jeskai Tokens. Against Jeskai Control variants it gets much closer. I think Jeskai is behind the other control sets except maybe Sultai. UB/WUB is first, followed closely by Abzan, then Jeskai, last is Sultai. That does not mean UB and Abzan are way way better, we're talking degrees here. In the hands of the right player, Jeskai Control is a fair fight for any control deck. The burn alone makes sitting back and waiting at 9 life bad for the other decks, Jeskai certainly has more sudden wins off the top of the deck.

The availability of Narset Transcendent and the Ojutai spells (both the Dragonlord and the Command), plus the counter and card draw of Blue give it a lot more punch than it had before. Rebounding a Treasure Cruise is stone almond street hell-on-wheels clown car insane laughter laughter laughter. Plunk. I think the pieces are a little harder to assemble, the draws a little less reliable than the other 3, but it is starting to look sweet.

Granted you can cast these three in WUB and WU control lists as well, plus still rebound that Treasure Cruise. I think I'd take Black's removal over Red's, but the Big JC (Jeskai Control) is definitely about to come up with some Top 8's.

My list was by no means fine tuned. I wanted to try a few things, and did. I plan on tightening the list up to look more like this:

 

I mean if we're taking it serious, why not take it serious, right? Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and Garruk, Apex Predator are there to provide a bit more inevitability. I want to be able to say that beyond turn 8 I have a win condition that can take it home versus Whip decks. I can beat control with most Abzan set ups. What I find the hardest to beat long game is big lifegain. I'm hoping 6 hand disruption, 2 enchantment removal, and the old Spirit Dragon on X=4 will be enough. That's 9 cards of sixty, or...(punches clown face like it's a calculator) ...15% or better per card drawn to have some answer for the Whip.

I like my match up versus Red. It's the deck I am set to mulligan aggressively against to get one of the needed hate cards. You can't win a game against Red without early cheap removal or pseudo-sweepers. I've got turn 2 and 3 blockers, which I will chump with, no questions asked. And in game 2 and 3 it's even better for me.

Heroic is what it is. They either win or they don't. Not going to invest a ton of time into them when nine times out of ten, it's the draws that make that game.

Green Ramp (Any) is even, unless I'm drawing lots of removal in which case I win. Temur is the same. It's a nail biter to be sure.

Mardu and Red Black seem to have my number personally, but it may have more to do with inexperience versus those decks/cards than any fault of the deck.

It's possible I abandon the Double Dragon sideboard, but not without a lot more testing. It's also possible I go back to 4 Satyr Wayfinders, toss in one Whip of Erebos strictly for the lifegain and maybe a Hornet Queen to fend off Flying Weasels. Equally possible is going to all Sylvan Caryatids with multiple Assault Formations and a few (Hornet Nests)s plus Dromoka's Command to fight them into big targets. Command is also back up enchantment removal.

There's a ton of ways to go. All I have to do now is find the ones that fit the changing metagame. The great thing is that once I find the set ups I like, I don't have to worry about new cards coming in before June. I can build up my six or seven stock lists and hope to guess correctly on the metagame that weekend. I have a feeling I know what's going to be on the menu that day, and I have an answer. Of course, I will not be spoiling my deck, even the week before. I'll show you something close to it, but a guy's gotta have his secret man time, right?

As of Sunday, I have ONE contestant for the Dragon Deck Building contest. One contestant does not a competition make! So, I'm hoping to see at least one more submission before I see this new article published. If not, I'm declaring a win by default. I was going to require two decks minimum, but hell if Procrastination was kind enough to respond and play along, he'll get the tickets.

The next few weeks will be focusing on weekend tournament results to see what new crazy decks are showing up, why we should or shouldn't fear them, and discussing Planeswalker83's  Space Shuttle collection. Hope to be seen by you all then!

Until next time.

CLB

3 Comments

Nice Work! by Plainswalker83 at Wed, 04/29/2015 - 11:51
Plainswalker83's picture
5

It was a pleasure to help you test and be featured in your article. I will be posting this list in an upcoming article. For the record it is Plainswalker not Planeswalker :) Just a nod to my affinity for white mana :)

What the frig? No wonder when by CalmLittleBuddy at Wed, 04/29/2015 - 18:42
CalmLittleBuddy's picture

What the frig? No wonder when I searched I didn't find your articles! OMG what a terrible terrible oversight. Even reading it now it looks like Planeswalker because it's so ingrained in my mind.

I really had fun. W must do the rubber match this week or weekend!

I'm so sorry about the spelling. ;)

No worries :) by Plainswalker83 at Wed, 04/29/2015 - 19:46
Plainswalker83's picture

Just shoot me a message when you see me on and I will be glad to help you test more.