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By: walkerdog, Tyler Walker
Feb 18 2008 12:42pm
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Welcome back. Last time we covered tools and angles of attack that each color (including Brown) has against Flash, Dredge and Burn variants. An addition that Dangerlinto mentioned was Moat against Flash, to give you a bigger advantage against their Phyrexian Dreadnoughts. This time we’re going to look at Mono-Black, BWG and BW Deadguy builds, which all are a little alike, but a little different, and it is important to know how to fight each one. Last, we’ll examine UGr Threshold.

First up is Mono-Black. This archetype has two distinct builds, and then variations that can blur the lines. They both tend to run The Great One, Dark Confidant, and Hymn to Tourach, Duress and/or Thoughtseize and Smother. After that, the weenie version uses beaters like Black Knight and his many variants, and the possibly some efficient fellows like Ravenous Rats (discard and a 1/1 thrown into the bargain), along with the occasional Mishra’s Factory, Tombstalker (as a finisher) and Umezawa’s Jitte.

The second build, typically titled Pox, runs Pox, and oftentimes it’s little brother, Smallpox, along with plenty of discard, sometimes Phyrexian Totem, and The Rack. Tombstalker again can show up here, ready to clean up the mess left behind by two-three Pox effects. It sets up a position where both decks are top-decking, but one has a Rack out, or a 5/5 Flyer, or a Totem to give them a step up in the mana-race, or even a Factory to slowly do the opponent in. Where the first build is a rather aggressive beast, this version tends to try to grind out a win, putting you in a worse and worse spot over time.

The general plan against is to conserve cards, especially lands. They specialize in ripping up your hands and blowing up your lands, then finishing by out-topdecking cheap threats, almost all of which cost no more than two mana. To beat them, you need to either have source of card-advantage, some sort of Trump (which covered in the artifact section), or just play tightly with your lands, conserving both the ones in play and taking special care NOT to use fetch-lands to thin your deck until you're ready to use the fetched land, as you usually end up need to top-deck into more land.

When fighting these decks, we’ll start off looking at artifacts. Yes Black can’t really do much against them (aside from those that are also lands or creatures I suppose). Even better, there are two artifact creatures that were printed as direct hosers for this type of deck. The most obvious one is Dodecapod of course, printed as an extra rare in Time Spiral. The second, and actually BETTER one (Thanks to moranl and largebrandon for the education) is Sand Golem. Why you ask, he’s only a 4/4 when they try to make you discard him. Most of you probably didn’t ask this but saw the connection immediately, but I didn’t. The key thing is, you’d discard Dodecapod to a Pox effect, then put it into play, then sacrifice it to the creature part of the spell. I suppose if you had another creature out that you REALLY wanted to save, that would be just fine, but if you didn’t have anything out, you aren’t going to keep a creature. Sand Golem waits until the end of the turn, so it lets the spell totally resolve, and then you hit them for four on your turn. Good times. Aside from those two fellas, you can run Crucible of Worlds (assuming you can get to three mana to cast it, you can keep getting your lands back), Sensei’s Divining Top to improve your draws, and Epochrasite which is another creature that keeps coming back. Vedalken Shackles and Engineered Explosives are also big answers.

Blue is can handle the discard-onslaught, as they can handle most things that require… playing spells. Because they have counter-spells, that counter those spells that threaten them. Force Spike, Spell Snare, Force of Will, Counterspell, etc all can hit those irritating discard spells. Plus, since Blue can do the best thing in Magic with ease (Drawing extra cards), it can even be one-for-oned all day, then flip a Fact or Fiction to grab more cards, Gifts Ungiven for something specific, or just suspend Ancestral Vision.

White has a hard time fighting this fight. There really aren’t that many white solutions to these cards, although Flagstones of Trokair isn’t the worst card to have. However, that can make your mana-base trickier when you’re running more than two colors. Some artifact/enchantment removal can be useful also. Green has access to Quagnoth, but that’s still a six-casting-cost spell, and six mana can be hard to hit against Black. Gigapede is another creature to remember, but he’s not quite as good and still costs a lot. Eternal Witness works if you have the mana to cast him, but they try to pinch down your mana. Red can break the key artifacts, and play Guerrilla Tactics, and possibly Fiery Temper, but really,

Guerrilla Tactics
doesn’t have that much available.

All in all, if you have a bad match-up against Mono-Black, you should probably consider Sand Golem and Dodecapod in your sideboard. Otherwise, just out-play them, as they are running a strategy that is slightly slow and a little underpowered. Respect it and beat it.

BW Deadguy is quite similar to the Mono-Black with dudes build. The advantages it gains are access to Swords to Plowshares, Gerrard’s Verdict, Serra Avenger, True Believer, Vindicate, Samurai of the Pale Curtain, Jotun Grunt and the like. Essentially, you trade in two casting-cost Pro: White 2/2s and 2/1s in favor of 2/2s and 3/3s that can actually have other effects on the game. The deck still has Bob, Duress and the other good discard, it just has better creatures for the most part.

Jitte is very powerful against this deck, assuming you have the creatures to keep it going. It kills theirs and removes their creatures. SDT also performs well here. Sand Golem and Dodecapod aren’t quite as potent, as they aren’t quite as likely to let you choose what to discard as the Black builds, but still can do the job. Shackles and EE are still useful.

BWG typically follows the evolution from Black to Black-White to a third color by doing what you did in the second color, a.e. adding higher quality creatures and better utility cards. In this case, the typical two additions are Tarmogoyf and Eternal Witness. Birds of Paradise also tends to pop up, and due to this, Hypnotic Specter tends to show up as a solid turn two play, and a good flying beater that can carry a Jitte in a pinch. Also due to the Witness/Birds inclusions, Cabal Therapy shows up more. The deck can further evolve towards what we say Gainsay run a few weeks ago in winning the PE, to a eight-elf build that has Skullclamp to take advantage of all those one-toughness creatures. Other variations can lean to Rockish builds with Pernicious Deed, Witness, discard, mostly the same removal and then a few fatties, typically including a Genesis.

In general, you want to execute your plan against all of these decks before they get theirs going. This sounds too simple, but really, these decks are slightly slow decks that over-power other decks with awesome solutions and quality creature, and grind out card-advantage over several turns. They don't flop the FoF, they just one-for-one you three times, then pick up a two-for-one with Witness and the like.

In White, Swords is nice, only missing any Pro: White guys they might still have. Moat is decent, but they still have Serra Avenger and Tombstalker in some builds. Condemn is


Wrecking aggro since before I played Magic.

worth consideration, since that give you eight Swords effects against attacking decks. Wrath of God can catch them if they over-extend. Decree of Justice is awful for them, as you get a card and they have to bash their heads into a wall of 1/1s.

Black has Smother which hits everything in their decks short of Tombstalker, Chainer’s Edict will clean him up. Bob is good in their deck, and is good against their deck. The Pro: White team, especially Hand of Cruelty is a house against almost everything they drop. Hymns, Duresses and the like are fine also.

Green doesn’t get much of any use aside from what was listed under Mono-Black, although Nimble Mongoose and Troll Ascetic are hard to deal with if they don’t have Edicts. Blue can of course will fight a counter-fight, and do their thing, since counters solve all the world's spell-based problems.

The last deck I would like to take a look at is UGr Thresh. UGr is the most widely played Threshold build, and the best most of the time. Last article I mentioned that the only reason to play a version other than UGr was because the element of surprise from the new build AND the build itself combined to create a deck that (for that tournament at least) was as good as, or better than the industry standard. UGr Thresh is the true-est form of an aggo-control deck that exists in Classic. It seeks to drop a cheap threat, usually Tarmogoyf or Nimble Mongoose, then rides them to victory, countering relevant threats with Force of Will, Spell Snare and the like. Brainstorm and Ponder help them ensure land drops, and flooding rarely occurs because they only run 17-18 lands in most builds. Lightning Bolt and Fire/Ice gives them spot removal and reach, letting them seemingly throw away counters and attacks with abandon until they get the opponent to five-six life, then burning the opponent out.

To beat this deck, you need to have either solutions to their threats (usually removal), or a threat that simply trumps theirs. For example, Phyrexian Dreadnought typically can race Thresh, so if it sticks, the fatty robot probably wins the game. If you can drop a threat that they just can't deal with or race (admittedly, there's only a few), you won't worry about them.

Green first this time. Green has it's own Goyfs, and Berserk to out-race them. Otherwise, Troll Ascetic is a house that they can't blow over. Eternal Witness can help you get back important cards that they countered or burned, and block a turn too. Red needs to just aim for the head, and try to cook a Goose or two with Flamebreak. Sirocco can break them if you can get it in there. Pyroblast can help too.

Blue should be looking to catch their Goyfs with Threads of Disloyalty and Vedalken Shackles. Sower of Temptation is worth considering also, but is usually too slow. Hydroblast can be useful for catching their burn spells, but Force Spike is the better card in general to fight them from turn one. Trinket Mage into Engineered Explosives, Chalice of the Void and Tormod's Crypt are all solid plays to make too. A Chalice at one can strand their entire hand some games.

Black has the best fighting form here. Due to the low land-count, cards like Pox and Smallpox can be game-winning if they resolve. Discard is great of course, and Thoughtseize deserves special mention for being able to get those important creatures while still in the hand. Edicts are good against untargetable creatures too, and finally, Tombstalker is enormous. Extirpate is either awful or great, depending on if you can get one of the creatures into the GY. They don't run that many most of the time.

Moat is the white wrecking-ball of choice. Hard to resolve since it costs four, but when it does... wow. Jotun Grunt also is a beating. If they don't remove it immediately, it usually allows you to do whatever you want while they wait for it to die or for you to put it in jeopeordy. Treat your Grunts with care. Samurai of the Pale Curtain also is solid, trading with Nimble Mongoose and helped slow down the road to Threshold a little. More should probably be said about Moat. It single-handedly can wreck entire decks. It should probably be played a LOT more, so keep it in mind the next time you need a solution to aggro.

The artifacts were covered in the Blue section due to almost all of the good ones being tutor-able with Trinket Mage.

Last, I have a list by Raddman. He feels like it absolutely kills Thresh, and I liked it enough to want to show-case it.  This is a good list to examine both for how and why it beats Thresh, and as a solid representation of our above discussion on BWG builds.  Take a look.


Next, I'd like to talk about Narastyle's deck briefly.  It was slightly resembling my attempt at mashing Landstill and Thresh together, although really, it was pretty much just Landstill.  I talked to him after he split the finals with Winston Smith.

He felt like he had a very good matchup against UW Landstill, and it sure looks that way since he has better man-lands and Deeds to blow theirs up.  He also likes his matchup against Thresh, due to tons of counters, card advantage, Shackles and Deeds, not to mention 4/4 First Strikers and Factories.  RDW/Burn was the matchup he feared the most.  I appreciate him overcoming my deficient (and by that I mean, I speak NONE) Japanese to talk over this deck and to take the time to do this.  It's a crazy-good build considering what the rest of the Top Eight is. The top eight from the PE included three builds of Landstill, and two Thresh decks along with one RDW/Burn, one Mind's Desire combo, and one BGW Rock. Conrad Kolos finished in the "money" for the second with in a row with his UW build of Landstill and right now, to win a PE, you had better prepare to fight Thresh, Landstill, and probably Mono-black or Burn in both the Swiss and the Top Eight. If you don't have solid plans against at least two of these decks, you probably should take a step back and rebuild and retool your deck. Good luck! I will have part three next time, probably looking at Landstill, since it's huge right now, and I should have a tournament report or two next month, if anyone would like to read them. Let me know!


Thanks!q by walkerdog at Wed, 02/20/2008 - 17:20
walkerdog's picture

Thanks MS, I appreciate your input.  Standstill will probably be covered the article after next.  I'm cooking up something special with a guest speaker, so to speak.

:D by MagicStop (Unregistered) (not verified) at Mon, 02/18/2008 - 22:18
MagicStop (Unregistered)'s picture

I've played both Raddman and Nara's decks, and they are both great decks. Props for them both putting original twists in powerhouses! And congrats from the excellent PE placings, as well. Hopefully I'll be able to play in this coming PE, and I can give Walkerdog some Standstill love, as that's what I've been working on for the last week or two.

And as always, thanks for the great article and classic-love!