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By: Westane, Jeff Torres
Nov 04 2011 8:35am
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Well... Damned

Giddy with anticipation I called my wife early Wednesday afternoon, asking her to log on to MTGO and give me the ISD Block DE start times. The first event was at 5:00, meaning I'd need to feign some kind of illness/emergency/death to get out of work an hour early. While the thought definitely crossed my mind, I knew there were other game releases real emergencies I needed to save my sick time for. The next was at 10 in the evening, and try though I might, I knew my body wouldn't let me pull that one off.

My next plan of action was to attack the 2-Man Queues. I wanted to get some good grinding recorded to further prove the viability of Zombies in ISD Block. I wanted to do live recordings, but my wife and baby indirectly closed the door on that idea. I decided I'd just record the games like I usually do, until I remember the client still doesn't work and probably wouldn't record my replays... Screenshots every couple turns? No... too ADD to do that effectively... Well screw it, I'll figure out after a game or two! Let's queue up...

20 Minutes Later...

Okay, yeah, 20 minute queue times are just not going to work for the kind of grinding I'm looking to do. Why is it I can't queue as a tank in MTGO again? Whatever, on to plan... F...

Fun Fact!

Throughout history, Jeff has always used ellipsis (...) in his writing to denote pauses in sentence flow. While many readers enjoy the natural pacing this sets, as though the author were actually holding a conversation with you, Jeff's former editors have never been a fan. This is not the grammatically correct use of the ellipsis, and makes for poor writing on a technical level.

Jeff can no longer keep an editor...



Those That Cannot Do, Watch

Well, over the course of the night I was able to get two (Count 'em!) rounds of testing in. Round 1 was my zombie deck against Burning Vengeance. I was able to easily lose game one, but my sideboard, and mana screw across the table, secured the rest of the round in my favor. My second round I decided to pull out my GB Rock deck, another project of mine I've been working on since before the set released, and won another 2-1 against another Burning Vengeance deck. My paltry 11 tickets had flourished into a still paltry 14 tickets! Huzzah!

While those little warm up matches were great, it didn't compare to playing in a DE. I was able to catch a few of the games through replays, but ultimately I decided to turn in for the night... depressed... broken...

Luckily my wife always knows how to cheer my up and now I have a fantastic story to tell my son when he asks me where he came from!

Before the DE's started I had a pretty good idea of what the meta would look like, and for the most part I was correct. The above chart was taken from only the two most recent Daily Events, but this is just preliminary after all.

The Big Boys

GW Humans
Lands: 24
9 Forest
4 Gavony Township
11 Plains

Creatures: 22
4 Avacyn's Pilgrim
4 Doomed Traveler
4 Fiend Hunter
4 Geist-Honored Monk
4 Mayor of Avabruck
2 Mikaeus, the Lunarch
Other Spells: 14
4 Garruk Relentless
4 Intangible Virtue
4 Midnight Haunting
2 Parallel Lives
Sideboard: 15
2 Angelic Overseer
3 Bonds of Faith
2 Divine Reckoning
2 Kessig Cagebreakers
3 Naturalize
3 Slayer of the Wicked

We all knew this would be the deck to beat. If I played aggro, and I don't, this would be my go-to deck every single time. It has the potential to explode in the early game, but more importantly it has the staying power to outlast midrange and control decks. There's several takes on the build, some focusing more on tokens, some more on cheap Humans. I think the above list strikes a good balance, and it's running Garruk, which I think is correct 11 out of 10 times. The supremacy of this deck will depend a lot on the next two sets, as it's a huge lack of sweepers that is really giving this deck the advantage right now.

Burning Vengeance
Lands: 26
4 Hinterland Harbor
5 Island
8 Mountain
1 Nephalia Drownyard
4 Shimmering Grotto
4 Sulfur Falls

Creatures: 4
4 Snapcaster Mage

Other Spells: 30
1 Blasphemous Act
1 Brimstone Volley
4 Burning Vengeance
4 Desperate Ravings
3 Devil's Play
4 Dissipate
2 Forbidden Alchemy
1 Geistflame
2 Grasp of Phantoms
1 Naturalize
1 Rolling Temblor
2 Silent Departure
4 Think Twice
Sideboard: 15
2 Blasphemous Act
1 Forbidden Alchemy
2 Geistflame
1 Grasp of Phantoms
3 Naturalize
3 Rolling Temblor
1 Runic Repetition
2 Silent Departure

Don't ask me why but that table took FOR EVER to format properly. Anyway, here is the scissors to Humans' paper, UR/x Burning Vengeance. This deck is in a fantastic position against fast aggro right now, having access to the only real sweeper in the format. Against everything else, it's the only deck that can comfortably support a full set of Dissipate, which is very problematic against midrange and other control decks that may exist in the format. Make no mistake, this deck is as close to permission control as you could ever hope to get right now, and it's daunting to play against. There is just no good graveyard hate available at the moment. That said, Witchbane Orb is definitely a real card, and can go a long way in shutting the Burning Vengeance player down if they're not ready for it.

Red Deck Wins
Lands: 23
23 Mountain

Creatures: 21
4 Ashmouth Hound
4 Bloodcrazed Neonate
1 Instigator Gang
4 Kruin Outlaw
4 Reckless Waif
4 Stromkirk Noble
Other Spells: 16
4 Brimstone Volley
4 Devil's Play
4 Furor of the Bitten
4 Geistflame
Sideboard: 15
4 Blasphemous Act
4 Falkenrath Marauders
3 Instigator Gang
2 Mountain
2 Traitorous Blood

I don't know why I was mildly surprised to see RDW make the cut, but I was. There's always a red deck in the format, always, but for some reason I just mentally ruled it out, despite having been testing a Boros deck myself. While my opinion of RDW has always been that it's a crapshoot, this particular build has the unique quality of slowing itself down to play the long game. Blasphemous Act is a real card, though I still consider Rolling Temblor to be the more consistently better sweeper, and only needs five creatures in play at any one time to be on par with Day of Judgment. If I were to rock a red deck in ISD block, this is the way I'd go.

UG Dredge
Lands: 24
6 Forest
4 Hinterland Harbor
9 Island
1 Swamp
4 Woodland Cemetery

Creatures: 19
4 Armored Skaab
4 Boneyard Wurm
3 Deranged Assistant
4 Kessig Cagebreakers
4 Splinterfright
Other Spells: 17
4 Dream Twist
2 Gnaw to the Bone
4 Mulch
4 Silent Departure
3 Spider Spawning
Sideboard: 15
4 Ambush Viper
4 Bramblecrush
4 Memory's Journey
3 Naturalize

Another "obvious" deck from early brewing. I'm just not surprised at how poorly the deck performed in practice. As it stands, Dredge just folds to any halfway decent removal, and worse, has no good evasion outside of Spider Spawning, and that hardly counts. If there was ever a deck that desperately wanted Skaab Ruinator, this is it, but adding him fundamentally changes how the deck is built, and in my opinion makes it suboptimal overall.

That said, if there was ever a deck to watch out for in the coming sets, this would be it. It just lacks a couple good synergistic creatures and some consistency, and when/if we get that this could be a tier one deck. Until then, I highly advise against it.

Decks To Watch Out For

  BUG Control
Lands: 27
4 Hinterland Harbor
4 Island
3 Nephalia Drownyard
4 Shimmering Grotto
8 Swamp
4 Woodland Cemetery

Creatures: 3
3 Bloodgift Demon

Other Spells: 30
1 Army of the Damned
3 Dead Weight
4 Forbidden Alchemy
3 Garruk Relentless
4 Liliana of the Veil
3 Sever the Bloodline
3 Silent Departure
4 Think Twice
2 Tribute to Hunger
3 Witchbane Orb
Sideboard: 15
2 Bloodline Keeper
4 Curse of Death's Hold
4 Naturalize
3 Tree of Redemption
2 Tribute to Hunger

I've been playing GB Rock almost exclusively (To great success I might add) but this deck really makes me rethink my choice. I don't know how sold I am on the maindeck Witchbane Orbs but everything else looks very solid. Garruk is hands down the better of the two 'walkers, but Liliana's no slouch either. Additionally, Bloodgift Demon is probably the best creature printed in the set for Block Constructed, and he's found his way into every one of my black decks as a 3 or 4 of. I would really love to find some room for Victim of Night here, as targeted removal against Humans is mandatory and Dead Weight isn't always enough. Also, the more I play it the more in love I am with Sever the Bloodline.

RG Werewolves
Lands: 22
8 Forest
2 Ghost Quarter
1 Kessig Wolf Run
9 Mountain
2 Shimmering Grotto

Creatures: 23
4 Daybreak Ranger
4 Gatstaf Shepherd
4 Instigator Gang
3 Kruin Outlaw
4 Mayor of Avabruck
4 Reckless Waif
Other Spells: 15
4 Brimstone Volley
1 Devil's Play
2 Full Moon's Rise
4 Geistflame
4 Moonmist
Sideboard: 15
3 Ancient Grudge
2 Blasphemous Act
1 Devil's Play
2 Naturalize
3 Rolling Temblor
2 Witchbane Orb
2 Wooden Stake

Another aggro deck! Werewolves has actually seen some minor success in Standard recently, and the Block version is almost identical... almost. In Block the deck simply isn't as fast as RDW, or as consistent as Humans, but it is still definitely a deck. I'm personally of the opinion that the decks needs some Garruks and more copies of Full Moon's Rise, but even then the improvement is marginal. I'm not a big fan, and with every other card having Flashback it just doesn't seem very well placed in the meta... yet. We know that we'll be seeing new and different application of dual-faced cards, and what that could mean for this deck is to be seen.

RWU Control
Lands: 24
4 Clifftop Retreat
6 Island
2 Moorland Haunt
3 Mountain
5 Plains
4 Sulfur Falls

Creatures: 10
3 Delver of Secrets
4 Geist of Saint Traft
3 Snapcaster Mage
Other Spells: 26
4 Brimstone Volley
2 Devil's Play
4 Dissipate
3 Geistflame
1 Lost in the Mist
2 Midnight Haunting
3 Rebuke
3 Runechanter's Pike
4 Think Twice
Sideboard: 15
2 Blasphemous Act
1 Devil's Play
2 Lost in the Mist
3 Purify the Grave
2 Rolling Temblor
1 Slayer of the Wicked
2 Urgent Exorcism
2 Witchbane Orb

I want to go home and build this right now actually. One of my early decks for this block was UW Control with Geist of Saint Traft and Runechanter's Pike, but it was simply too slow and the finishers were just too inefficient. Splash for red, and suddenly the deck looks significantly better. I still don't know how sold I am on the Moorland Haunts. Is the colorless mana worth having in a three color deck with only ten creatures? Well, probably, since there's very little double mana costs and a full set of Think Twice to smooth out the draws. The deck looks incredibly well thought out and just might be the premiere non-Burning Vengeance control decks in the format!

Early Assesments

After playing in several block rounds, a few 2-Man Queues, and observing early Daily Events, I've come to a few conclusions about the current block format. I'll keep it short and sweet.

  • Gatstaf Shepherd may be better than Mayor of Avabruck in midrange decks. Dying to Geistflame sucks.
  • Actually, Geistflame is really good at killing a lot of relevant creatures!
  • Snapcaster Mage is really not very impressive when half your cardpool has Flashback anyway...
  • Despite graveyard mechanics, Liliana proves to be very good, even decent against aggro decks.
  • You should still board Liliana out against aggro decks...
  • Garruk is five kinds of fantastic. My favorite play includes using a flipped Garruk's -1 to find and play a Reaper From the Abyss.
  • It's my firm belief that if you're playing green, you should be playing Garruk.
  • Allied color decks that aren't GW feel too inconsistent.
  • Oddly, three-color decks feel even more consistent, provided there's two enemy color pairs.
  • Shimmering Grotto is an unfortunate necessity in many decks. I hate playing it.
  • Ghost Quarter isn't very good either, in my opinion.
  • Did I mention how good Garruk is?
  • UG Dredge is a deck that should be considered when deckbuilding, but not feared.
  • I hate that it's called Dredge, if anything it should be Madness.
  • Dual-Faced Cards make me incredibly happy I play online. Suck it sleeve swappers!
  • This set is brimming with potential, and I'm EXTREMELY excited for Dark Ascension.

That's it for me this week, hope you enjoyed it. Hopefully I'll have a tournament report for you next week! Hopefully I'll be back to my old Monday slot by then... Aren't I hopeful?

Until next time!

-Jeff Torres


I totally agree that playing by Enjambment at Fri, 11/04/2011 - 09:52
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I totally agree that playing online with Innistrad is much neater than playing paper. I think you get a new appreciation for DFCs when they just happen, front-to-back.
And though the graveyard/exile window system is still kind of a hassle, it's way easier to track everything at once.
I'm playing Burning Vengeance myself (I can't resist a UR enchantment-based combo-control [cf. Pyromancer Ascension]) and enjoying it quite a bit, though I haven't jumped in a daily yet either. The one thing I don't like is being completely cold to a Witchbane Orb game 1 (beyond removing it with Naturalize[s]). I'm not sure about Snapcasters--on the one hand, everything has Flashback, as you say, but on the other hand, they also swing for 2, which is something that's missing from the Snapless build that I'm running. :/

RE: UG dredge. Dredge is by by walkerdog at Fri, 11/04/2011 - 14:25
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RE: UG dredge.

Dredge is by far a better name than madness. I could almost see "graveyard combo" but even without the actual dredge combo, you KNOW what a dredge deck is doing. Why would you call it Madness when it has 0 madness cards and doesn't even have cards that play like madness (a.e. no discard for an effect spells) compared to the fact that it has a ton of "put cards from your deck into your GY..." stuff.

I still don't think it should by Westane at Fri, 11/04/2011 - 14:30
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I still don't think it should be called Dredge but I like your name way better. Hence force I'm going to refer to it as

"UG Deck That Puts Cards From Your Deck Into Your Graveyard And Stuff"

It's not the mechanics that give me the Madness vibe, it's the tempo the deck seems to have. Piloting it brings me back to Odyssey block for some reason...

I mean, I like Odyssey as by walkerdog at Fri, 11/04/2011 - 14:42
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I mean, I like Odyssey as much as the next masochist, but Dredge is an archetype at this point across basically every format. Zendikar has a GY-abusing deck, so did Zendikar/Alara block, so does Vintage... Dredge has joined the names of archetypes much the way the Zoo has become the "cheap big dudes backed up with spells" archetype, RDW is the red deck (except for Burn I guess), and Storm is basically everyone combo deck that runs a storm finisher. It may be a bit dumb, but it just is.

I do support UGDTPCFYDIYGAS as the deck name if you really hate dredge though.

Okay now you just listen by Westane at Fri, 11/04/2011 - 14:47
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Okay now you just listen here!
...Yeah I guess you're right. But I still get to make a tiny smirk every time I talk about the deck. Fair?

That is a deal. I mean, by walkerdog at Fri, 11/04/2011 - 14:51
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That is a deal. I mean, laugh all you want about how dredge (real dredge) kills on turns 1-4 and block dredge typically has 1-2 guys in play by turn 4.

UG Threshold, since it mills by bread expert at Sat, 11/05/2011 - 13:51
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UG Threshold, since it mills itself and benefits from big graveyards

But Thresh didn't really mill by walkerdog at Sat, 11/05/2011 - 14:23
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But Thresh didn't really mill itself much, rather it discarded (sometimes for madness) and casts a ton of cheap spells. Milling yourself is a prime quality of dredge.

Luckily for me my girlfriend by Alternate at Sat, 11/05/2011 - 20:39
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Luckily for me my girlfriend is letting me stay in tonight just to watch college football.... but then I read this.

But when it comes to ISD Block Constructed, which I have played in almost every daily that is in my time zone and I play it exclusively right now, there are 50x the decks you are currently talking about.

Sure there is burning vengeance. But there are at least 4 separate variations on that. The U/G "Dredge" deck? The B/G "Dregde" deck, or I like to call it "Splinter-Mulch" is really good with Lilliana, so you don't need to bother with blue which isn't fast enough to deal with fast decks.

My deck (And if you win, you get to name it right?) I'm working on is doing really well testing against players that have an 1800-ish ranking. It's a U/W Token Control deck that is fast to deal with GW, but can also control BV. When I win a daily with it, I will call it "My Little Pony", bc you guys take this stuff wayyy too seriously.

Nevermore is being main-decked now.

Ghostly Possession + Geist of Tramp Stamp is working nice.

There is a really cool mono-blue deck.

Soon the Heartless Summoning decks will be hitting the market.

RG has more applications than just Werewolves, and they are badass. I'm going to run one of those soon and see how it works.

Burning Vengeance will slowly die out as players start to figure it out. I mean it is based entirely on lands, and if you have to start splashing other colors like white or green for Nevermind or Witchbane Orb means that it will be a 50/50 chance of winning. The only reason it does is that people haven't caught onto running Nevermind main deck yet.

And in the daily's, you will soon see different decks start to win at random intervals.

I can easily see a mono-black deck being played right now thanks to Heartless Summoning being like an enchantment elf.

I just know that there are at minimum, 30 playable and winning decks out there. Some of those might be variations, but you might see Burning Vengeance become less of a win condition and more of an add on in R/U Decks or R/B.

Sure... But I'm only by Westane at Sat, 11/05/2011 - 21:59
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Sure... But I'm only reporting on the decks going 3-1 and better, and this was written using only the data from the first two events... and for the most part it's still accurate.

"Ghostly Possession + Geist by Dream at Mon, 11/07/2011 - 07:37
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"Ghostly Possession + Geist of Tramp Stamp is working nice."

Sooo...spending 6 mana and 2 cards to get a 4/4 flier is good?

>considering an overcosted Air Elemental good

Also, what do you do when you actually draw ghostly possession alone?
I can't see that card being anything but a 14th pick in draft.