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By: Rasparthe, R.A. Sparthe
Dec 17 2008 9:05am
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I was planning on slowing these recaps of the Block Constructed format to bi-weekly.  It appeared the format had turned into a Shard-on-Shard melee between the three top dogs Naya, Jund, and Bant.  The only thing new to report would be which of the three happened to claw its way onto the top of the dogpile this week.  Of course, a lot can change in a week.

All six of the Block events fired this week.  A good sign of the health of the format especially considering some of the tournaments start times.  Friday morning at 5am EST?  Block must be popular in Europe I guess.  At any rate, another welcome development is the large increase in different decks making a Top 8 appearance this week.  Of the forty-eight slots available in the Top 8 only twenty-seven went to the traditional trifecta of Bant/Jund/Naya.  Which leaves slightly less than half for the rest of the field.  That is quite the difference from the past two weeks when close to 80% of the decks making the Top 8 were the traditional Shard ones.

As a quick aside I should mention how I have been categorizing the decks.  To date, the categorization has been very broad.  Even the traditional Bant/Jund/Naya decks can't seem to nail down a optimized list.  Each week there are many varied differences between decks even within the same Shard.  It is rare to see duplicates of any deck list making the Top 8.  One of the side effects of easy three-color mana fixing.  As a result, if the deck is entirely within a Shard it is categorized as such.  If it borrows only a few cards I have labelled it a 'hybrid'.  If it takes significant cards from another Shard it earns a hyphen.  For instance a Bant deck that takes some major cards from Naya will get Bant-Naya 4-color (or 5 color if appropiate).

The Block metagame has made a couple of interesting shifts.  One of the by-products of this shift is seeing a Grixis Shard make a Top 8 appearance.  I haven't always been entirely fair with the Shard but its lack of success is more likely encapsulated in the answer to a single question. 

Which card in Shards of Alara is the most unbalanced?  I have always maintained this is a pretty balanced Block which makes it play well both in draft and in Constructed formats but still, in my opinion, they goofed.  One card in the Block is a dream wrecker.  That kid that whiffs at three easy pitches and takes his bat and ball home in a fit of suck.  One of the Planeswalkers?  The Ultimatums?  Nope.

Relic of Progenitus.

Grixis Shard is nothing terribly special.  It has some solid removal but mostly the cards are overpriced and underpowered.  Fire-Fiend Ogre is a prime example.  Two toughness?  It dies to all three of the sweepers available and just about every last piece of removal in the set.  Naya gets the steroid loving Woolly Thoctar and at one less mana.  Esper, Tower Gargoyle.  The only saving grace is the Grixis ability.  Only Grixis cares enough about the enviroment to recycle.  That one last kick at the can makes it worth it.

So why would they print a card that every other Shard can access, costs on 1cc and when you draw multiples gives you a free card for your troubles?  Its the dirty underside of Magic exposed.  Anti-Grixites, obviously.

So it doesn't surprise me that since Esper - oh wait you mean Relic nerfs another Shards recursion come-into-play effects? - has seen quite a bit of decline in the past weeks that suddenly Grixis decks become more viable.  The Relic is being stripped from sideboard leaving the door open for Unearth.  It is also why Grixis will never get to truly shine since any sucess will see the hate reappearing.

But I would be remiss if I didn't put up the list.  For all those people that don't want the anti-Grixites to win, or just enjoy a bit of a rogue deck that opponents won't be expecting, here you go.

Luk-Sac - 8th Place - Dec 2

21 Lands

Crumbling Necropolis
Grixis Panorama

21 Creatures

Caldera Hellion
Flameblast Dragon
Fleshbag Marauder
Sedraxis Specter
Sedris, the Traitor King
Viscera Dragger


19 Other Spells

Agony Warp
Covenant of Minds
Cruel Ultimatum
Grixis Charm
Obelisk of Grixis


Executioner's Capsule

 There cannot be many better feelings than sending an Unearthed hasty Flameblast Dragon into the red zone for the win.  Sedris makes all kinds of shannigans possible, including using Caldera Hellion to sweep the board periodically or maybe reanimate a little Fleshbag if you so fancy.  Even discarding cards to Covenant of Minds doesn't seem so bad if you can manage to get the Traitor King to stick.

Another welcome addition to the metagame is the appearance of some controlling decks.  There were even a couple of 5-Color creations spotted.

ykjackng - 1st Place - GitG Prelim - Dec 2

25 Lands

2 Arcane Sanctum
2 Bant Panorama
2 Forest
1 Island
4 Jungle Shrine
2 Mountain
2 Naya Panorama
2 Plains
4 Savage Lands
4 Seaside Citadel

10 Creatures

2 Battlegrace Angel
4 Elvish Visionary
2 Stoic Angel
2 Woolly Thoctar


25 Other Spells

4 Bant Charm
2 Cruel Ultimatum
3 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
4 Naya Charm
4 Oblivion Ring
4 Resounding Thunder
3 Sarkhan Vol
1 Violent Ultimatum


3 Caldera Hellion
4 Goblin Assault
4 Hindering Light
4 Naturalize

This controlling deck uses alot more board control then traditional control decks but I thought to highlight this build because it made a first place finish.  No Cancels here, although the Esper Control decks are running the traditional counter spells, including Punish Ignorance.  This version throws down land after land while trying to get out some of their beef and casting Cruel Ultimatum and cycled Resounding Thunders.  Then Naya Charm lets you do it all again.

The addition of more control and four and five color decks has seen the rise of another deck.  The Mono-White deck that has been floating around since the very first tournaments has seen some solid success this past week.  It almost toppled one of the traditional Shards.  There is good reason.  With decks branching into every color they, by their very definition, become less stable and will on occassion just lose to themselves.  Mono-White is solidly consistent and throws out serious threats very quickly.  If a deck stumbles on either land or color screw Mono-White often capitalizes.  Those that have played a few rounds against it know it doesn't take many turns for Battlegrace Angel to make the game unwinnable.

Still, Mono-White has its problems.  If it gets bogged down or the game goes long it often just doesn't have the gas to get it done.  Sometimes dying despite having an opponent into the low single digits.  Board sweepers can be a real problem for it.  To answer some of the problems a Boros deck has emerged.  Red giving a bit of reach, some legs to make it to the finish.

emeraldgirl25 - 2nd Place - Dec 6

25 Lands

Naya Panorama
17  Plains

24 Creatures

Akrasan Squire
Battlegrace Angel
Guardians of Akrasa
Knight of the White Orchid
Knight-Captain of Eos
Ranger of Eos
Sigiled Paladin


11 Other Spells

Ajani Vengeant
Elspeth, Knight-Errant
Oblivion Ring


Caldera Hellion
Dispeller's Capsule
Knight-Captain of Eos
Resounding Silence

This is basically a Mono-White build although it is a much more mid-range than is normally run.  It is probably a sound decision since the iron-clad consistency is sacrificied by splashing into red for the Ajani.  The red also allows for some further sideboard options.  I think I would probably add either Soul's Fire or Bloodpyre Elemental to the side since the x/4 Bant creatures (including Battlegrace Angel) can be tough for this deck. if it doesn't find an Oblivion Ring.

In all an interesting week in Block Constructed.  You can find the links to each tournament below.

December 2
December 2 - GitG Prelim
December 4
December 5
December 6
December 7



5c deck by Anonymous(Unregistered) (not verified) at Thu, 12/18/2008 - 16:46
Anonymous(Unregistered)'s picture

I lost to the 5c deck in the semis and once I saw the deck, I wanted to hurl a bit. The fact that every relevant stabalizing / finishing card is a 2-of (save Elspeth, which has 3) pissed me off to no end. Stoic Angel and Battlegrace Angel are basically the 'core' of the deck allowing it to take advantage of the mountains of removal it runs. I highly suggest dumping those garbage Thoctar and getting at least a 3/3 split going if not cutting back on Visionaries. I don't really get why they even want to be here, a 2 mana cantrip that chumps? Pretty awful against everything except WW. Naya Charm is underrated, card is amazing.

 Just my slgiht rant.

by Rasparthe at Wed, 12/17/2008 - 18:59
Rasparthe's picture

I agree totally.  Why not the Jungle Shrine there is only 4 one drops?  Seems like a no-brainer addition but the deck did make it to 2nd place so it must be playable.  Personally I like the Bloodpyre, I'm running a more aggro version of this deck with Bloodpyre in the board but it sees a lot play especially against Naya and Bant decks.

by iceage4life at Wed, 12/17/2008 - 15:45
iceage4life's picture

Good article but that Boros deck's mana makes me want to die.  You have 4 one drops, run some freaking tap lands.  The Panoramas are more disruptive to this deck than lands coming in tapped due to the 8 WW spells.  Run 4x Jungle Shrine.  This will also let you cut the mountain in the board which I think we can all agree is loose.

I also don't think it needs Bloodpire, it has plenty of exaulted to attack into a battlegrace, resounding silence to RFG them, Knight-Captain to Fog, and of course O Ring.