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By: walkerdog, Tyler Walker
Nov 19 2008 12:09pm
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Shards of Alara is here, and a new Block season has begun.  I started off wanting to play Bant in Block.  They have a nice mid-range thing going on with the various Angels and War Monk among others, so I figured that taking those cards and adding some of the best removal in the block in Oblivion Ring and Bant Charm would put together a contender.  I started off in the Tournament Practice Room to get a feel for the deck.  The list went something like this:  

Bant Mid-Range
A (Bad) Alara Block deck
Creatures
4 Rhox War Monk
4 Stoic Angel
4 Sanctum Gargoyle
4 Battlegrace Angel
16 cards

Other Spells
4 Cancel
4 Bant Charm
4 Oblivion Ring
4 Courier Capsel
2 Covenant of Minds
14 cards
 
Lands
4 Seaside Citadel
8 Island
4 Bant Panorama
5 Plains
5 Forest
26 cards

Sideboard
0 cards
 
Sanctum Gargoyle

The list was bad.  I built it with the idea that it would not waste time with early drops and then let its superior fatties backed up by card draw bring it home.  Pretty much the only deck is beat in practice was the super-slow Ultimatum decks that had a hard time with infinite fatties, and counters (including  Hindering Light from the sb).  After a day of flailing around with the deck like someone who just had their crutches electrocuted, I jumped over to Puremtgo and read up on the Block PE results for the first three events. 

Bant had indeed produced some solid results, but the decks I saw where totally different than what I had envisioned.  Where I thought that hitting all my lands drops (I was at 26, and had six cards that dug at least two cards deep) and dropping bombs would take care of any problems my opponents could present, the truth is that that strategy was too slow.  Alara is another beatdown  block, at least thusfar.  A lack of a good Wrath of God effect tends to have that effect, and it is even more pronounced with a lack of great card-draw and life-gain.

I looked at a few lists, and combined what I liked into this to test from:

 

Bant Beats
A starting point for Alara Block
Creatures
4 Rhox War Monk
3 Stoic Angel
2 Battlegrace Angel
4 Wild Nacatl
1 Akrasan Squire
4 Elvish Visionary
3 Rafiq of the Many
21 cards

Other Spells
1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
2 Sigil of Distinction
4 Bant Charm
4 Oblivion Ring
4 Excommunicate
15 cards
 
Lands
4 Seaside Citadel
4 Island
4 Bant Panorama
4 Plains
3 Forest
1 Mountain
2 Jungle Shrine
2 Naya Panorama
24 cards

Sideboard
0 cards
 
Rafiq of the Many

 

Rafiq is the deck MVP.  You want to try to set him up with a creature in play, then drop him.  That creature will beat for ((Creature’s power + 1)*2).  The minimum damage that a creature can do with Raffy in play is four.  Elvish Visionary, and very rarely Nacatl, are the only critters that will do so little.  Squire will do 6 at least.  War Monk’s will crush for eight.  Rafiq hits for eight himself if he has to.  VERY very good creature.

Even without Rafiq, most of your creature-base are massive threats on their own.  War Monk really helps a lot against the fast decks, both stopping their ability to attack due to his size, and then typically is the first guy to attack once you secure the ground with Angels, Cats, and other dudes.  Even when the opponent trades men with him, you gain life, keeping you out of dangerous territory. 

I’d like to talk about how some of the cards I didn’t have in the deck before change it.  First, I ran the one Squire to try him out.  He is very good, and I wouldn’t hate cutting some of the Angels to max him out, or even Nacatls.  He beats for two, and lets your other drops beat for one more.  He has been pretty crazy.  Sigil of Distinction has also been great.  You typically play it later in the game, making anyone you have just laying around into a huge beater.

The only reason I wouldn’t support totally removing the Angels as discussed earlier is because they often win games for you.  Opponents LOVE to gum up the board with 1/1 tokens against this deck, and often-time they will rely on tokens to buy time… right up until you drop a flyer that smashes them and they’re powerless to stop.

Another direction you can go (which some people already have) is the VERY aggressive, one-drop heavy build.  With four Squires, four Nacatls, and

potentially four Feral Hydra, you have a big selection of duders that Ranger of Eos can fetch.  This allows you to make early aggressive drops, bash, and reload with potential fat for the mid-game.  If you want to go in this direction, you'd probably cut everything above a three-drop from the above list, and potentially cut Elspeth, Knight-Errant to make room too.  Sigil of Distinction could go, but it gains in value given that you plan to play lots of aggressive men to equip it to anyway.

Elspeth was the other card I was testing.  She is only “Okay” against fast beatdown, but is pretty solid against the control decks.  Making dudes, pumping guys (Hello Rafiq!), etc, she’s just frustrating for the opponent.  And if you ever do stick a guy or two and make everything indestructible, it can be impossible for them to win.

Talking about her leads me into my second thought on this Block format:  Every good deck at least POTENTIALLY can play a Planewalker.  They’re broken.  Gruul, Jund, and Naya decks can all run (Sarkhn Vol) to great effect.  They can abuse his pump effect with tokens, steal your men to sacrifice to Bone Splinters or Caldera Hellion, or just protect him for a few turns and kill you with five 4/4 dragons.

Naya Decks also have the option of Ajani Vengeant, which absolutely crushes control decks.  He comes with uncounterable removal, uncounterable (albeit situational) land destruction, and an ultimate that wrecks… well, anyone who won’t win the next turn anyway.  Naya decks get an embarrassment of riches in this block… yea, they can squeeze Elspeth in also if it tickled their fancy.

Finally, the powerful Esper decks have been known to run them some (Tezzeret) (THE TEZZERATOR!!!!!).  Option include untapping mana-artifactsto pump him up, tutoring for extra dudes, and Garruking up an Overrun once the game is locked up.  Knowing all this, we have a pretty good reason for Grixis being pretty awful (thus-far at least).  They have no (viable) Planeswalker.  Sure, Tezz could be shoe-horned into the deck, but you’d need to pack a pretty heavy artifact count to justify it, and then you could just be Esper.

To win in Alara Block, you need a way to beat Planewalkers.  They provide a very powerful effect, for a fairly cheap investment.  To beat them, you can run a very fast deck, like the White-Weenie build that won the last PE and simply overwhelm them to the point that removal, not Planewalkers, are what your opponent needs.

For Jund/Naya, Resounding Thunder is pretty good.  It helps drop a Planeswalker in one hit unless they used the pump ability rather than the subtraction ability.  The swarms of early attackers these decks can churn out also tends to make Planeswalkers sort of bad against them (although even a bad Planeswalker is still pretty good), and Jund can even blow up up to three PWs with their Ultimatum, if they were so inclined to run it. 

Naya (and any deck in White, like the aforementioned WW deck and Bant too) has the best single piece of removal in the set in Oblivion Ring.  It takes out critters, artifacts, and… Planeswalkers!  That seems rather clutch to me!  Excommunicate seems unimpressive at first, but actually can have a

Oblivion Ring
fairly dominant effect by mana-screwing someone who missed a land-drop but played a creature on a given turn.  It also helps clear the way to beat up a Planewalker.

Esper has the White removal mentioned, and also runs another way to play Whack-a-Walker.  With a few 2/x flyers, a ‘Walker might find itself dead as soon as the opponent untaps.  Esper builds tend to have access to Cancel for problems like the ‘Walkers too.

Having said all of this and having played against almost every archetype at least 10 games, I think that top tier decks are Bant, Jund, Naya, and White Weenie.  Esper is definently just outside the top, depending on how much artifact hate people are packing.  It seems to be a LOT like Affinity; forget about it, and it will crush you.

Don’t forget your Planewalker-hate, and have fun!

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Anyone can create a good by kimshin900years at Thu, 02/09/2017 - 07:19
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