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By: walkerdog, Tyler Walker
Nov 03 2011 9:42am
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Hello everyone.  This week I've been putting in a lot of work into Innistrad Block constructed.  I recently cashed out most of my collection to pay some bills, and a new block is always a great time to re-enter constructed play.  There are some deck-building constraints that you should be aware of:

The best decks will probably be mono/2color decks (it's hard to build any mono color decks except POSSIBLY mono-Red or mono-Black) and enemy-wedge decks.  These are the decks that are one color combined with its two enemy colors because we have, well, these duals:

 There lands are the basis of your three-color decks.  Two-color decks can afford to run basics and possibly Shimmering Grotto but three-color decks will be pretty bad if you aren't running WBR, UGR, BWG, RUW, or GBU.  Furthermore, there are basically three removal colors

I cashed out the rest of my constructed stuff and bought 4x Innistrad.  I review Lord Erman's articles on this site to prep for building.  I trust LE over almost every deck builder out there in a fresh new format.  That's not to say that someone like Chapin, Smi77y, or TWoo don't brew some good stuff, but they frequently don't build for non-GP/PT formats.  That said, I've been binging on ISD constructed.  The first deck I built was a card-for-card copy of LE's UGR aggro-control deck:

0 cards

Other Spells
4 Sulfur Falls
4 Hinterland Harbor
1 Kessig Wolf Run
4 Mayor of Avabruck
4 Daybreak Ranger
3 Snapcaster Mage
2 Delver of Secrets
4 Dissipate
4 Brimstone Volley
4 Think Twice
3 Geistflame
3 Garruk Relentless
3 Devil's Play
2 Bramblecrush
8 cards
5 Island
5 Mountain
5 Forest
15 cards

1 Naturalize
2 Bramblecrush

1 Garruk Relentless

1 Geistflame

1 Devil's Play

2 Tree of Redemption

2 Blasphemous Act

2 Witchbane Orb

3 Rolling Tremblor

1 cards
He described it as an aggro-control deck although it feels like more of a mid-range build to me.  That's nit-picking.  I cut a Geistflame for one more Snapcaster (I mean, he's ridiculous) and I moved out a Devil's Play for one Stitched Drake.  I don't think this deck can support a TON of the Skaab "exile from graveyard" guys, but I like one or two to supplement the super-killable Mayor (everyone is playing Dead Weight or Geistflame or Rolling Tremblor or all of these cards).  You could add a land or two and cut a Think Twice, possibly cutting a Mayor or two also to try to max out on Devil's Play and hit all your land-drops with the "burn-them-out" plan for almost every game or you could try to squeeze in more beaters and cut Think Twice or Garruk or something.

Let's get down to brass tacks:  The decks that you will have to beat with this deck!  I don't claim to have played against all of the possible combination of decks in the format, but I've played around 50 games with this deck and I have some match-up approaches.

The Good

These are decks you will probably beat with solid play.  They are URx Burning Vengeance (The flashback combo deck), control decks in general, and the mid-range decks.

Burning Vengeance

Burning Vengeance seems to maul aggro decks and fold to control decks.  Against aggression it will attempt to melt all creatures and then fire off a bunch of flashback cards to burn the opponent out.  Fighting this deck, we will seek to turn creatures into damage (and probably won't defend them from the opponent's removal), keep tying up their mana and their hands so they can never get firing. 

For example, with a sample hand of three lands, Snapcaster Mage, Disrupt, Garruk, and Think Twice, we're going to start off digging with TT, flash it back (They almost certainly won't run a BV into your Disrupt), and go from there.  When they finally fight you over a BV, win or lose, we're going to play out the Snapcaster even if we can't flash something back (hopefully we can flash Disrupt back but...) and use Tiago to start our beatdown.  If we get in two hits with him, we're happy.  Hopefully we can use a Brimstone Volley or two on them once they kill Snapcaster Mage, untap and Devil's Play them pretty low.  At this point, they're dead to almost anything so they will feel pressured to either play a Burning Vengeance or sit on counter mana hoping to keep you from Devil's Playin' them.

You just got played, player!

After game one, we want to get rid of some crappy cards.  Mayor of Avabruck suckkkkkkkkks in this matchup.  They play this card called Geistflame.  It is crushing to play a twodrop that gets killed then KILLED AGAIN if you play another copy.  What a crappy card.  I really don't like him, but that might be because apparently everyone plays freaking Burning Vengeance in the TP room.  So, bring in Garruk, Naturalize, Bramblecrushes, the Orbs, and Devil's Play.  Take out Mayors, and either Geistflame or Delver of Secrets.  Geistflame is basically Shock (and sometimes they have Delvers) while Delver can be 3+ damage, but dies to their Geistflames.

This is generally a 2-1 win, but the two wins always seem fairly easy as long as you don't make too many mistakes.  It can be tempting to try to Bramblecrush lands if they miss a couple of land drops, but our deck is so slow at finishing that it is better to hold them back for the inevitable Burning Vengeance as another card they HAVE to counter compared to losing a land which doesn't really bother them that much most of the time.  Garruk is a fun card for this foe: they rarely take any damage from wolves, but they WILL blow at least 2 cards to kill a wolf and Garruk and if you can defend him for a turn or two they end up using a ton of cards just holding him back which allows you to set up your Devil's Play finish.

Mid-range decks:

Mid-range decks such as RG Werewolves and UGx dredge decks are also fairly favorable (although UG can present some problems and may warrant some extra hate in the sideboard).  These are decks that try to be aggressive with combo elements (think Moonmist for Werewolves) but generaly fold a well-timed Disrupt or Devil's Play.  These are decks where you can either play in a controlling manner (Disrupt on turn three, play a Garruk or Werewolf on turn four, Snapcaster + Disrupt on turn 5) or in an aggressive manner (attack a lot early, keep them off balance, and finish with a couple of "kicked" Brimstone Volley for example).   They tend to do little to disrupt you and you have actual disruption for their plans. 

This was the situation of my sweetest win: our UG opponent had been dredging up a huge Splinterfright and attacked me (with Tiago in play) with (13/13!) it.  I blocked with Snappy.  Post-combat, I Volley'd him, then played a Tiago to Volley him back again down to 10 life.  I untapped, attacked with Tiago and he took it.  It didn't really matter as I was able to Geistflame it, then Volley him to 3, and Devil's Play  him out.
Against mid-range decks, you generally can remove some number of Geistflame, Bramblecrush, and Think Twice (if they're fast) or Mayors (if they have Geistflame).  You will bring in Rolling Tremblor if there's a chance to 2-for-1, Devil's Play, Garruk, and Blasphlemous Act.

The Bad
And I mean BAD!

Aggro decks are a bad match-up for this deck.  I would say that they're favored by at least the margin that we're favored against Burning Vengeance and control decks.  
White-based Aggro:
These decks will overwhelm you with card-advantageous guys (oh hey nice Geistflame I HAVE DOOMED TRAVELER!!) that can evade you or are just bigger than you can deal with occasionally (Oh hi mr. douchey Geist-Honored Monk!) and so forth.  Rolling Tremblor and Act of Blasphemy occasionally bring them down, but the fact that there are three different flavors (with their own angles of attack) doesn't help.  UWx will beat you with (Giest of Saint Traft) equipped with some sort of first-strike granting equipment.  GW will overwhelm you with cheap men, and WW will run you over with stable mana while your mana-base melts down on you...

Red-based Aggro
This is even worse.  How fun.  It turns out that 8 sick 1-drops, Nightbird's Clutches, good burn spells topped of with random finishers is brutal on a durdling mid-range deck that wants to set up three colors of mana and to fight a slow grinding battle.  Post-board it is hard to improve the match-up much.  Rolling Tremblor and Act can again do some work, and Tree of Redemption helps a little, but this is an ugly deck to face.  It is the number-one reason I may not run URG tomorrow as block fires up.

The top decks in the format is hard to predict, but I think for the first week, we will see a lot of RDW, Burning Vengeance, White-based aggro, and Snapcaster-based decks.  In this meta, BV would be the best deck to play, beating the aggro decks most of the time, and losing to Snapcaster quite a bit but not always.  RDW seems like a fine choice, but will get eaten up frequently by White-based aggro (not UW so much though).

The aggro match-up is ugly enough that I would consider changing the deck quite a bit if it isn't fixable as we are currently constructed.  I think that cutting Mayors for the full sets of Geistflame, Demonfire, Delver of Secrets, and cutting Bramblecrush for a Rolling Tremblor or something would be a starting point.  Let me know if you can fix this ugly area for URG!

The tier 1.5-2ish decks will probably be UGx dredge (although I am probably underestimating this deck), RG Werewolves (Sad to see them this low, but they're kind of slow), and random planeswalker-based decks.  Geist of Saint Traft-Red decks (Ghostfire per Lord Erman) will likely occupy a similar spot in the meta at URG; mauling control and combo and crying if they see the opponent opening with two basic Plains or Mountains.

Let me know how your Innistrad testing is going!  I think that the block will not have one boogey-man (making it similar to Alara's opening format where there were at least 2 tier 1 decks and 2 more right behind them for tier 1.5).  



Hi, this is my first posting! by joelbartlett at Thu, 11/03/2011 - 23:27
joelbartlett's picture

I'm trying out subbing naturalizes for the bramble crushes. So far found them useful in helping take down some of mono-red's powerful artifacts that I've seen running around, as well as BV, and the token pumper.

Moved all 3 of them to board for the BV and Red match-ups, and instead I'm testing the additional snappy and one more stitched drake.

And now that I write this I kind of wonder why I have them in sideboard if they may work well against 3 decks... probably should fix that.

Yea, Naturalize might just be by walkerdog at Fri, 11/04/2011 - 00:20
walkerdog's picture

Yea, Naturalize might just be better. The idea with bramblecrush is hitting planeswalkers (which aren't heavily played right now) or the super-lands, but you don't do that much in this meta.

My personal testing showed me by Lord Erman at Fri, 11/04/2011 - 02:03
Lord Erman's picture

My personal testing showed me that:

Burning Vengeance beats Aggro

UGx Dredge beats Burning Vengeance

Midrange/Control beats UGx Dredge

Aggro beats Midrange/Control

Surely it's way too early to talk about a meta, but it looks like the format is going to be very healthy without having a "deck to beat" around. The format is very fun and diverse which is something I like very much. I don't know what will happen in the coming weeks and months, but so far I like the format a lot.