walkerdog's picture
By: walkerdog, Tyler Walker
May 12 2008 11:25am
Login to post comments

I’ve been having a lot of fun in the last couple weeks with Bitterblossom.   The card really is ridiculous and really compares favorably to Dark Confidant, another ridiculously powerful Black two-drop.  You’re getting a “card” per turn, it costs per turn, it costs you minimal life, and is harder to remove than Bob.  This week I’ve been working on the natural progression (at least for me) from last week’s deck, moving from a Mono-Black build into a BW build.

First, I want to look at the various benefits to adding white.  They are improved removal (Which we only sort of need if we have six-eight Poxes), a few very solid utility creatures, possibly a stronger mana-base (due to the interaction of Pox with Flagstones of Trokair_, and a few random Gold cards.  I decided to move away from Pox and take more of a Pale Ale approach to my deck.  For reference, my previous Pale Ale builds are available on Classicquarter here http://classicquarter.com/deckview.asp?DecklistID=224
and here

What cards can I afford to lose?  Well, the Hand of Cruelty/Aven Mindcensor were both decent cards in their slots, but not the strongest options.  I can squeeze in two of my Bitterblossoms here.  I don’t mind dropping Chainer’s Edict for now, to squeeze in the other two BB, and one more Smother.  I’m going to go ahead and max out my Gerrard’s Verdict count simply because a little life-gain will complement Bob and the BBs.  One Vampiric Tutor could be added to the deck if you have it, probably at the expense of a Serra Avenger, and since you have a tutor, mise well drop a Skullclamp in, to take advantage of Bitterblossom in the appropriate situations.

As an aside, I really enjoyed this deck previously due to the solid base of under-costed, beefy flyers.  Adding Jitte to either Tombstalker or Serra Avenger typically just won the game.   This makes me want to try to work in a couple of Jittes into the maindeck.  You could probably drop two Grunts into the sideboard to make room.  I’m doing it for now.  I had to cut a Hymn also (I mean, I didn't HAVE to, but I did).  So, my deck as I’m proposing it:

Pale Ale Fae
A much more Fae look at BW - As suggested by Walkerdog
Dark Confidant
2 Jotun Grunt
Serra Avenger
4 Samurai of the Pale Curtain
2 Tombstalker

Other Spells
2 Thoughtseize
4 Swords to Plowshares
1 Vampiric Tutor
4 Bitterblossom
4 Gerrard’s Verdict
Hymn to Tourach
2 Smother
2 Umezawa’s Jitte
2 Plains
4 Godless Shrine
4 Windswept Heath
4 Bloodstained Mire
4 Mishra's Factory
1 Polluted Delta

Leyline of the Void
2 Jotun Grunt
Null Rod
4 Chainer's Edict
1 Extirpate

I’ve experience problems tinkering with decks where I’ve taken a good deck and weakened it by removing its core strengths unwittingly, so I’ll take this time to do a quick inventory.  Compared to previous Pale Ale builds, we still have six discard cards on turn one, and six more on turn two that also give us plenty of disruption, a must in Classic.  We have some of the best MD and SB removal in the format.  We have Evasion, and answers to many of the best decks.  I'm still greedy with my mana, running Factories in a deck with WW and BB costs, but that's the way I roll.  As far as what we lost to add BB?  Not much.  Sure, Aven Mindcensor was a blowout sometimes (in response to Flash, a fetchland, or a Tutor), but it's a 2/1, not the most impressive stats.  Also dropped was small amount of removal, which is acceptable as the Awesome Blossom Blooming 1/1s can function as removal against most of the decks that you needed to draw 5+ removal spells against.

First, I'm going to break out a replay to demonstrate the deck.

My opponent keeps his seven, as do I.  He's on the play.  I have Duress, Thoughtseize, Samurai of the Pale Curtain, Swamp, Mishra's Factory, Jotun Grunt, and Smother.  I know keeping a WW and W1 guy with no White mana is shaky, but I have discard to stall, and Smother for any dude-threats.  Cool.  He leads with a Fetch into Hallowed Fountain.  I put him on Bomberman, with an outside possibility of Landstill since B-Man has been on the upswing (GJ Whiffy.  Jerk.) and Landstill has thankfully seemed to die down /vomit.

He passes the turn.  I drop Swamp and try my darndest to Duress him.  He tries to stop that (and succeeds I might add) with Brainstorm to hide his goodies.  He leaves me with a choice of two Islands, a fetch, Auriok Salvagers, and two Counterspell.  I take a counter.  He untaps and drops an Island.  Makes his Counterspell good of course.  I draw and see a Mire.  Cool.  I drop a Factory and try the Thoughtseize, which he prevents with his counter.  He untaps and plays a fetch, then passes back.  I draw a Gerrard's Verdict.  I drop my Mire, and get Godless Shrine untapped.  He has Spell Snare for the Verdict.  He plays another land, and runs out the Salvagers.  A sick ability and a butt too!  I draw Dark Confidant.  I play him and pass the turn back.  He attacks and I take it, down to fifteen, then follows with Trinket Mage for Pyrite Spellbomb.  He can now start drawing extra cards each turn.  Bad times, but I have Bob.  He plays the Spellbomb and an Island.

I untap and reveal Bitterblossom to Bob.  I draw a land and play it, then follow up with Jotun Grunt, which he against Snares, and Bitterblossom after that, to which he has no answer.  Now if I can just hold out long enough to kill his Salvagers.  And hope he doesn't get another.  He beats with his dudes, and I drop to eight.  Then he breaks his spellbomb to draw a card.  BB brings me to seven, Bob to five... when I reveal Jitte.  Good times!  I offer up Jitte for his Counter-Inspection, and he has no response.  I try to equip to Bob... Swords to Plowshares!  Crap.  I'm back up to seven.  He returns the spellbomb to hand on my EoT, then drops it and beats again, cycling it to draw a card.  I die at upkeep to Bitterblossom.

Game two I side in Leylines and Extirpate, dropping Smothers and Grunts and Serra Avengers (She is a mid-game card that beats aggro, not combo), also bringing two Edicts. We both keep, with me going first.  I have two fetches and a Plains, to go with Bitterblossom, Verdict, Swords, and Sam (Samurai of the Pale Curtain, but we're tight, so he lets me call him Sam).  I lead with a Fetch.  He drops one too.  I break mine, and he breaks his.  I untap and try out Sam.  He Spell Snares that (seriously?  I hate that card).  He untaps and drops a Fountain untapped.  I draw Hymn.  I try it.  He Counterspells it.  Fine.  He untaps and plays Trinket Mage, getting the Spellbomb.  I untap and drop Bitterblossom along with a Plains.  He drops Spellbomb and another Mage, getting Lion's Eye Diamond.  Aw, c'mon.  Fine, it's a good deck.  I untap and draw another Sam, and play him.  I have White open to Swords his Salvagers if he tries to go off raw.

He doesn't have Salvagers (apparently), and drops land, then passes back.  I find a Leyline of the Void awaiting me on top of my deck, and hit him with my 1/1 token.  I drop the Leyline... not.  He hardcasts Force of Will.  Fine by me, Sam is still out these doing good deeds.  He untaps and runs out Salvagers.  I'm fine with them.  I untap and see a Factory.  It enters play.  I hit him for two with tokens, then try to Hymn him.  He Counterspells it.  He untaps, drops land and passes the turn back.  I draw a Duress.  I try out Duress and he Brainstorms, revealing land-hand.  Fine, I Verdict him, and hit with three tokens.  He untaps and tries Swords on Sam.  I Swords his Salvagers, and he hits me for four with his Mages.

I draw Jitte, play it and he scoops.

Game three was unexciting as it is very hard for them to beat turn zero Leyline followed by Sam times two and plenty of discard to keep pressure on, with Bitterblossom on turn five pumping out killer tokens.

So you can see were BB is a superior threat to some of the much weaker cards previously in Pale Ale.  It provides a relentless stream of killers.  It's not format-warping, but is a very solid addition to several decks.  Now, onto the matchups as I've experienced:

Let's start with Landstill:  I missed talking about it with last week's Pox build, but Landstill is still the biggest baddest control deck in the format.  Bomberman and Sensei Sensei act like control until they combo you out, but Landstill is a forty-turn, grind out wins, counter+Swords animal.  Depending on the build (Tutor-Still, three-four color, etc), Wraths used, and Tutor's used, the deck can take many shapes.  It was a bad matchup for Pale Ale, but not as awful now.  The reason?  Bitterblossom is a better threat than almost every other card in your deck against them.  It can be removed, and the matchup isn't GOOD now, but it's not vomit-inducing awful in the way it was before.

RDW:  RDW is one of the many "fifty-fifty" matchups we experience.  Bitterblossom isn't good against them.  The added Jitte and Verdict are.  Play tight and you will win a lot against them.  Play sloppy and you'll probably lose at -1 and zero life a lot.  Net change?  It's pretty neutral

Zooish Stuff:  Much like RDW.  You have DI forms of Card Advantage and Removal, and they have to burn you out.  Side in the Edicts for the Dark Confidants.

Storm-based comb:  The only combo that has a decent chance against you.  Still bad for them due to the volume of discard you run, but they have discard to defend with, so this is winable for them, un-like our next matchup.

Flash/Dredge:  Much like last week, this is brutal.  Your removal rocks their 12/12s, your GY hate, well, hates out their combos, etc.  Just not a good time for them.
  You can lose, it's just pretty hard.

Sensei Sensei and Bomberman:  Quick aside here; I've seen lots of Sensei builds that run a straight Blue mana-base.  I think this is wrong as by adding one or two Blue shock-lands you can make your Engineered Explosives absolutely backbreaking.  Aside end.  Umm... If they play EE, and can pop it, they win.  Needless to say, side in those Null Rods for Smothers usually, and hopefully stick them.  If you DO, you probably win.  Not a great matchup.

Fish:  Most Fish decks are usually packed full of very powerful cards that don't work together as well as your powerful stack of cards.  This probably sounds insulting, but with Grunt, Avenger, Tombstalker, Bob, BB, Jitte, great removal, and a slightly more stable mana-base than more three-color Fish decks, you are just slightly ahead in a lot of places.  The only thing that is missing is they have FoW and Brainstorm, and maybe Goyf.

Thresh:  Thresh is a great deck.  Just incredible.  Bitterblossom gives them oodles of trouble.  Mongoose is a pain in the butt.  This is a really draw-based matchup because of all the "I just won" scenarios.  Did they draw enough early counters to stave off your discard?  Did you get down a Grunt quickly after SB?  Do you get all your Edicts and wreck their Shroud-men?  Don't get me wrong, there is plenty of skill involved, but both sides tend to hit drops that win the game.

I didn't play against much in the way of Pox.  You can beat them, but they tend to handle creature decks like this one.  Not much to say about it, other than Jitte and Bitterblossom are the two cards that beat them.

I spent all day Saturday and Sunday trying to get a Queue to fire.  Saturday night one fired while I was gone, and The People's Champ, LSV won it.  I'd assume he ran his 4C control/fish-style deck.  I'm dying for a good PE.  (Editor's Note:  I can assure you, I did not win it, as I played Whiffy's UGr Thresh build and got blown out by Black Green Elfclamp)

The other thing I would like to do is present a Sensei Sensei list I've been working on for perusal.  I'm not sure that this is the best list, but it's about as close as I've been able to come.  Check it out:

The card I'm not sure about is Future Sight (it just wins when you hit it, but it costs a ton).  I could see Teferi or maybe some Vedalken Shackles or more Explosives.  Swords would be fine also I'm sure.  I could also max out Brain Freeze and Top in it's place.  The SB is rather random, filling in whatever holes I felt like I had.

Please give any feedback you have.  I hope you enjoyed this and will leave any feedback you have!



Null Rod by walkerdog at Wed, 05/14/2008 - 23:36
walkerdog's picture

I run Null Rod to beat any deck relying on artifacts, as against MOST of them I don't mind siding the Jittes/Clamp out, especially Bomberman/SS.  I can always side them back out game three if I win off the back of them game two and am worried they'll bring in disenchants or a like card.  Kataki+discard is fine too, this is just how I chose to approach the problem.

Moat is a house that I always forget about xP

by iceage4life at Tue, 05/13/2008 - 19:26
iceage4life's picture

Also that Sensei-Sensei list just seems akaward.  4x Seat just makes your mana base worse run one Seat and one Den for Trinket Mage and keep the rest to non artifact lands (or add TFK.)  You only run 3x Top which the deck needs to win.  You run all the bomberman cards but not LED+Spellbomb so you can run two combos.  You also only have one card in the deck that can deal with creatures on the table.  Consider StP or Shackles or something.  It just seems strickly worse than Bomberman as a combo-control deck.

by iceage4life at Tue, 05/13/2008 - 19:21
iceage4life's picture

Ah Bitterblossom starts to take over more formats, very good.  I like my WB control list over this one as you run mostly the same deck but fewer threats and more Moats.

I'd also cut the Serra Avengers they are pretty much worse than Tombstalker in every way.  You say she beats aggro but she comes down on turn four, dies to all removal in the format, and can't fight a goyf.  Also I see no reason not to stick in a second Skullclamp.  Null Rod seems like subpar Affinity hate as it blanks Clamp/Jitte why not run Kataki+discard?

Thanks! by walkerdog at Tue, 05/13/2008 - 14:19
walkerdog's picture

I could probably drop those cards for the Blackguard.  I'll have to test that.  CWish is nice, and I liked it, it just doesn't fetch Tops or Helms... The Brain Freeze is usually pretty easy to find.

Oona's Cunning by Under_the_hammer (Unregistered) (not verified) at Mon, 05/12/2008 - 09:14
Under_the_hammer (Unregistered)'s picture

Nice Article Walkerdog! I total underestimated bitterblossom when it was first released and even went as far as to say I thought it would never make a PE T8! Well this has already been disproved and since accepting my error in assessing this card, I have recently picked up 4 - and I must say I am impressed.  I love Oona's Blackguard and wondered if you had considered dropping the 2 Serra Aveneger and 2 Hymn to Torach for 4 of these pesky rogues.

Also have you considered cunning wish in the sensi-sensi ?