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By: Mundisv, Raimundas Vitkauskas
May 22 2014 12:00pm
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Eagerly waited by Block lovers Pro Tour Journey into Nyx has already come and gone. Commentators on the stream went as far as to call it brewer‘s paradise and pros indeed delivered. Multiple previously unseen decks were featured, putting everything from infinite combo to control, synergy, midrange or linear aggro on display that weekend. The results of this event are likely to shape Block Constructed format online for weeks to come and everyone looking to play it has to be conscious of the decklists from the Top 8. On the journey to Daily Event wins, we are going to analyze several trends and take a closer look at some decks dominant in the event.

BUG Control

The breakout deck of this tournament chosen by both Channel Fireball teams independently was BUG Control. They realized that a strong base of Sylvan Caryatid and Courser of Kruphix + Black removal, which was keeping Junk Reanimator above the water previously, is the best package for early game, especially when paired with invincible Prognostic Sphinx for the late game. As it turned out, Caryatid and Courser were the theme of Pro Tour and large part of the metagame was dependent on these. Given better mana fixing, BUG deck looks like a fusion of Junk Reanimator and Esper Control from the past. Besides lands, this deck adopts Silence the Believers and Feast of Dreams from JOU. The former was yet another format-shaping card. An ability to remove any creature is great and a control deck with ramp could easily get 2-for-1s out of this card. The latter removal spell from the sideboard proved to be great against aggro deck, where it is simply a Doom Blade in a format where common removal costs either 3 or 4 mana. Since this deck chose to fight against Elspeth instead of joining it, Kiora was given a chance and showed her strength at PT Atlanta. In a durdly environment, where midrange is king and aggro is infrequent, the planeswalker was able to do her thing under Coursers and Caryatids. It could either draw a card and a removal spell from your opponent nabbing an easy 2-for-1 OR it would “bubble” an opposing threat for multiple turns before releasing her krakens.

Overall, the deck looks very strong, with a great early game, a handful of removal against aggro and the most resilient threats and card advantage engines in slower match-ups. You have to keep this deck in mind, if you are going to play Block because BUG is reliable, people like to mimic professionals and the spotlights are aimed at it at the time.

 

 

 

The main difference between CFB Prime and CFB Pantheon lists is land count and Ashiok main versus some green creatures with Drown in Sorrow. The correct choice depends on the metagame but I like Drown in Sorrow more than Ashiok, especially if Junk Constellation deck will continue to be a thing (where Drown takes out Eidolon of Blossoms and Brain Maggot without a loss of card advantage). Another interesting take from both lists is maindeck enchantment removal in Unravel the Æther. After JOU we can see the top of opponent’s deck even more than ever before and an ability to mess with the deck proved to be relevant at least twice on coverage. In both occasions, Unravel was able to take out a Courser as well as a strong card from the top. That’s a point to play it instead of Deicide or any other enchantment removal in deck running both green and white.

In a latter article, a member of CFB explained that Deicide was insane against Mono-Green where taking out Nylea and deck’s ability to have Trample was backbreaking.

Junk Midrange and Junk Constellation

Reanimator is no longer the flavour of this Block. Another synergy-based archetype took its place, Junk Constellation. While Constellation was expected, the winning list was an innovative one-of in the battlefield. Ran separately from teammates by Patrick “the Innovator” Chapin victorious deck was Junk Midrange.

 

 

It’s a midrangy beatdown deck, choosing much more aggressive Fleecemane Lion and Brimaz instead of durdling around. Four Elspeths provide strong late game and a plenty of removal decimates everything your opponent puts on the battlefield. While BUG Control plans to play removal until its unstoppable Sphinx could take over the game, this deck tries to put pressure on the opponent while removal takes care of any roadblocks. If you like playing synergy-less Rock decks full of threats and answers, this Pro Tour-winning list should serve you well. Although, if you don’t like that straightforward approach of Rock decks, you might like the deck of another finalist.

The synergies are really strong and decks without many ways to disrupt Constellation will struggle to keep up with that much card advantage. This list has a lot of hand disruption and removal to ruin opponent’s plan, while its main enchantments engine draw Elspeth, Sun’s Champion to win with. All these slow and grindy match-ups come down to card advantage and Eidolon of Blossoms shines under such circumstances. It is (yet another) guaranteed 2-for-1 against a removal spell and, if unanswered, will overwhelm very quickly.

Naya Monsters

Naya’s never gone in this Block! It was a sigh of relief for brewers when Naya got pushed out during Born of the Gods era. Despite that, it was still a player all the time and a number of players decided to wield Naya in this Pro Tour. Its aggressive starts were good enough against slow decks and huge monsters should’ve been perfect against Weenie archetypes. That deadly combination helped two players make the Top 8. To be honest, innovation is not too apparent in these lists with only Banishing Light, Ajani and Magma Spray showing up from JOU.

I’m not sure about Naya monster in the future with a format full of control decks playing 10+ removal spells but I may be wrong and I’m waiting to be proven wrong by Naya once again and lose to PolukranosPolis Crusher into Stormbreath Dragon.

Heroic Aggro

Heroic seemed to be aggro type of the event and we didn’t see many Black Aggro players at the end of Swiss. Boros deck reached the Top 8 in the hands of Stanislav Cifka but we also saw Mono-White and Azorius Heroic in the coverage area.

 

 

All these decks were able to punish slow draws three-coloured midrange decks could have but Sylvan Caryatid into Courser of Kruphix in addition to excessive removal was probably too much for Heroic to have a better weekend.

It is reasonable to expect these kinds of decks in Daily Events because, due to the nature of MTGO, cheap aggressive decks are always more popular online than in paper. In that case, you can choose either to join them and master the deck or fill your sideboard with cheap removal like most of the players at the PT did.

A deck tech from the Pro Tour is available here.

No Esper, No Reanimator, No Mono-Black

None of the pillars from the previous format were popular between the pros despite their strength in the past. Esper had some followers but none of them were successful against apparently more powerful decks like BUG or Junk. This deck relies on counterspells and removal for the whole game and has no early plays to slow down the opponent or gain card advantage like other decks do. As such, it has a harder time surviving against beatdown decks and probably lacks power in slower match-ups.

Reanimator was totally non-existent in the field, which makes me sad. It probably proved to be too slow and too prone to variance, not forgetting the fact that some dedicated graveyard hate and Silence the Believers has appeared in the format. In the world of efficient midrange machines, Junk Reanimator is probably too clunky to make a resurgence.

The lack of Mono-Black at the top tables was a little surprising for me considering it is fast, powerful and consistent. Probably deck was too mainstream and had a huge target on its back, making it an inferior choice against a prepared field. Also, Silence the Believers is great against Mono-Black Aggro. Deck is likely to be gone for now but don’t be too surprised to meet it online, where Black decks have quite a following.

Mana Confluence

Mana Confluence found its way into whooping 7 decks out of 8 on the top. It fits into aggressive decks as well as three-coloured Courser decks and provides consistency for a low price in a slow format. This card is likely to be fixing mana for everyone and you should consider it for yourself, if you don’t want to be the only one left losing to colour-screw and tapped lands.

Lack of counterspells

There are not many good counterspells available, so this section belongs exclusively to Dissolve. It is a clean answer for Prognostic Sphinx and Elspeth, two the most powerful and impenetrable threats in the format. Yet players didn’t put emphasis on countering spells and most of BUG decks had only a lone Dissolve in the maindeck. BUG is a tap-out control at its core and, unlike Esper, counterspells fit poorly into its gameplan. Premium removal added by JOU allowed control decks forego Dissolve but it doesn’t make it any worse against powerful late-game spells everybody’s playing. This trend is intriguing me and I expect counterspell popularity to shift over time.

Format is flooded with removal

All these midrangy controllish decks seem to run as many removal spells as threats, if not more. That causes games to be a little frustrating where nothing sticks on the field and people just play from the top of their decks. It also means that games will last long and deckbuilding decisions will come to matter. Decks prepared for long attrition fight are going to come out on top. Naya Monsters work around that by jamming powerful threats ahead of schedule, Heroic stops removal with protection spells, while Control tries to play creatures immune to removal. Unfortunately for decks like Mono-Black, Mono-Red or any Devotion strategy, they just have to eat every spell thrown at them and that might be the reason why they were underrepresented. Under these circumstances, Elspeth, Sun’s Champion is extremely powerful because it demands two removal spells to be answered completely.

Elspeth is king queen

Speaking of which, I believe it wasn’t as format-defining pre-BNG as some people imply but it seems to be a complete powerhouse at the moment. It interacts favourably with removal and just wins the game, if given a few turns. Pro Tour decks were split into Elspeth decks and anti-Elspeth deck, which shows its incredible influence on the format. You can never go wrong by playing it and you need a good reason not to. Be cautious of this card and make sure you have a way to beat it before joining a Block event.

Brews still available?

All the thing above are very important to keep in mind when preparing to play competitively. But don’t get blindsighted by newly popular decks. Some people put their faith on Golgari Dredge/Constellation decks or Thassa’s Ire Combo deck at the highest level of competition. These unexplored archetypes have promise and are worth trying out. There’s nothing to lose and everything to gain, in the worst case scenario, you’re just having fun!

 

What’s next?

Patrick Chapin and crew have done their job and collected their rewards already. The metagame is set and now it’s your turn to find an edge against it. Tell me what you think about block!

 

Best of luck,
MundisV

3 Comments

Nice article. I've moved by IYankemDDS at Thu, 05/22/2014 - 12:27
IYankemDDS's picture

Nice article. I've moved from Junk Dredge/Reanimator to RG Elspeth (still two cards short of the 75 though). I wanted to put together Chapin's deck, but my collection was leaning more heavily toward the Naya build. In testing, I've found it to be a pretty good matchup against BUG Control. Most of my losses have been to Mono Red with a nut draw. I think with the BNG version of the Junk Deck out of the fold, RG Elspeth is probably the #2 deck in meta, maybe behind Junk Rares.

Thanks again!

Thanks for reading! I also by Mundisv at Thu, 05/22/2014 - 13:01
Mundisv's picture

Thanks for reading! I also have most of the cards for Naya and might play that deck because there's nothing better. Control decks are usually satisfying for me but BUG mirrors have to feel miserable, so I would rather avoid them. What do you think about Patrick's Junk vs. BUG? I believe he got lucky and that match-up is not very good...

I haven't played much with by IYankemDDS at Fri, 05/23/2014 - 00:34
IYankemDDS's picture

I haven't played much with the Junk Rares, definitely not enough to know for sure. Chapin seemed to think it was a good matchup. I can see getting the BUG deck to a low life total and finishing the job with a Silence the Believers on Prognostic Sphinx to get those last few points in.

I would not, discount the BUG Control deck, though. I don't think the CFB came to the same conclusion by accident!

Either way, as more people pick up Junk Rares on MTGO, I think we'll have our answer shortly!