5 Decks You Can’t Miss This Week
Worlds Week is behind us, but there's still plenty of time to explore Magic 2014 before Theros takes us to a land of Heroes, Gods, and Monsters. What kind of awesome things has this new set brought? Let's take a look at some decks featuring Young Pyromancer, Haunted Platemail, and other sweet cards from Magic 2014!
Every time a new set comes out, there's a set of players who see Corrupt, Liliana of the Dark Realms, and Mutilates of the set and want to make Mono-Black Control happen. It's been a long time since that deck has been powerful enough to compete in Standard, and the closest we've gotten in recent memory is this new Desecration Demon/Thragtusk midrange deck that's become popular in Magic 2014 Standard. That's not Mono-Black enough for tzio, though; he's determined to make Black Control work. Let's take a look at his list from a Magic Online Daily Event.
Mono-Black Control - Standard | tzio, 3-1 Standard Daily Event
There's not a whole lot new here, but that doesn't mean there's nothing exciting to talk about. You've got Mutilate, Liliana of the Veil, and all manner of spot removal spells to keep things under control against the aggressive decks. Really all you're trying to do against aggro and midrange is tread water until you can get Homicidal Seclusion going with your Haunted Plate Mails or Veilborn Ghoul. From there the resilient, lifelinking beats should close the game out in short order.
It does look like this deck has a rough time against control decks. Sure, you have the awesome interaction between Liliana of the Veil and Veilborn Ghoul to grind down their hand. The issue is that they have about as many Dissipates and Snapcaster Mages as you have relevant threats in your deck. Sure, you might be able to sneak in a Demonic Rising and cheat demons into play by activating Mutavaults, but you don't have especially many relevant cards to pressure them, so you have to be careful to make sure they resolve.
My biggest concern about this deck is that you don't start gaining life back until very late in the game. There are no cards like Pristine Talisman to constantly pressure your opponent to commit to the board or make sure you don't get Warleader's Helixed out by the control decks. It's possible that a card like Crypt Incursion would be good as way to give yourself a huge buffer of life to work with in the mid game.
Burning Earth is quite the card. In the past few weeks, we've seen people shifting towards decks that can play a reasonable number of basics, either via Farseek or just cutting colors. But why stop at two colors? Why not drop to just one? That's the question that DaPlaya asked when he put together this Mono-White Aggro deck. Cutting all the other colors let's him minimize his vulnerability to Burning Earth and mana troubles while maximizing his opportunities for Brave the Elements blowouts.
Mono White Aggro - Standard | DaPlaya, 3-1 Standard Daily Event
This deck seems reasonably well-positioned right now. You have a ton of aggressive creatures, tempo swings like Banisher Priest and Imposing Sovereign to get through, and Brave the Elements as both protection and a pseudo-Overrun.
Craig Wescoe ran a Boros build of this deck to reasonable success at the World Championship; the real question is what do you get by staying strictly in White? The answer seems to be Mutavault, additional aggressive one-drops in War Falcon and Dyrad Militant, and additional resilience to Burning Earth.
Really, the questions comes down to Burning Earth or no. If you resolve Burning Earth when you're ahead on the board, it can be very difficult to beat. However, as people start to come prepared to play against Mana Barbs, it's entirely possible that you're better served by just getting them dead.
We've seen a few attempts at Death's Shadow in Legacy and Modern over the last few years. Fetches into Shocklands, Thoughtseize, and various Phyrexian mana spells make it pretty easy to get your life total into the red zone in just a few turns. The real question has always been this: what do you do once you get turn on your Death's Shadows? Is a 7/7 creature good enough, and if so, what shell does it fit into? Well, Kahleya found a place for Death's Shadow, but I doubt it's what you'd expect:
Death's Shadow Combo - Modern | Kahleya, 4-0 Modern Daily Event
Yes, that is an Avatar of Hope that you see. Yes, this deck did 4-0 a Modern Daily Event. So what does this deck do? Well, you start by ripping your opponents hand apart with Inquisition of Kozilek and Thoughtseize. Then you cast Angel's Grace, deal yourself a bunch of damage, and kill your opponent with Death's Shadow. It's that simple.
You have Spellskite and Faith's Shield to protect your Death's Shadows from getting hit by removal. You've got Plunge into Darkness and Spoils from the Vault to get your life total into the red zone. With Angel's Grace, it's worth noting that Plunge into Darkness cannot get your life total below zero while Spoils can, because you cannot pay life you don't have. So you cast Angel's Grace, lose a bunch of life, smash in, and Rite of Consumption for the win if your opponent isn't dead already.
In the meantime, you've got Avatar of Hope to buy time against all of the Tarmogoyf and Delver of Secrets decks, as well as maindeck Leyline of Sanctity to protect you from discard and some of the more degenerate decks in the format.
We've seen a fair amount of UWx Control in Modern, especially with Shahar Shenhar's victory at the World Championship. However, it's been awhile since we've seen straight Blue-White, especially without Sphinx's Revelation. Even so, that's exactly what Scabs has done with this deck he took to 3-1 in a Modern Daily Event. Instead of Sphinx's Revelation, he's opted for Squadron Hawks and Vendilion Cliques to act as a proactive card advantage engine that gives your opponent less time to get back into the game.
UW Caw-Go - Modern | Scabs, 3-1 Modern Daily Event
The "traditional" UWx decks we've seen in Modern are pure control decks that look to drag out the game and lock things down with Sphinx's Revelation. Instead, Scabs deck looks to play a few counterspells and removal spells and then start developing its board. Squadron Hawks give you a cheap, evasive threat against control and combo decks, and an awesome blocker against decks like Affinity. Hawks are especially awesome with Moorland Haunt to keep up pressure while leaving up countermagic, and you can even Vendilion Clique away your Squadron Hawks to generate cards.
Once you've established a clock in the form of Squadron Hawk or Vendilion Clique, you're just looking to protect your threat while you clock your opponent and hit your land drops. Eventually Elspeth or Celestial Colonnade will make an appearance and end the game in quick fashion.
To me, the most exciting card in this deck is Jace Beleren. If everyone is shifting towards UWr with Sphinx's Revelation, how awesome is it for your card advantage engine to cost three instead of six? It's easier to sneak Jace in early and that makes all the difference, even if he is vulnerable to burn spells.
Jaya Ballard is one of the most prolific mages in Magic's multiverse. She's played a strong role in the ethos of the game since Ice Age, and any deck featuring her is going to have quite a legacy to live up to. Needless to say, Weebo's take on Red Control with Jaya Ballard does not disappoint. Let's take a look:
Jaya Ballard Control - Commander | Weebo
The thing I like about this deck is that it takes advantage of all of Jaya's abilities and utilizes them as part of a control shell in a color that's normally very aggressive. Jaya's first ability let's you force the degenerate decks, which are generally blue, to play fair. Casting a Red Elemental Blast every turn is not the easiest thing to fight through. Her second ability let's you pick off utility creatures and combos with cards like Basilisk Collar to take down the toughest threats. Her Inferno ability is a board sweeper and a win condition in conjunction with effects like Repercussion and Gratuitous Violence. The best part of all of this is that she's cheap enough that you can easily cast her three or four times in a game.
But how do you find cards to discard to her every turn? Squee, Goblin Nabob, Magma Phoenix, and Skarrgan Firebird give you a recursive source of card advantage that lets you continuously activate Jaya, enable engines like Trading Post, or just beat down once you've ground away your opponent's cards.
My favorite thing about this deck are the random gems that you don't see very often, but which are exactly what this deck is looking for. Codex Shredder, for example, digs for your Phoenixes and other key cards, is a Regrowth for a color that doesn't usually get them, and can be recycled with Trading Post. Caverns of Despair is a card almost no one remembers that does exactly what this deck wants. It buys you time to set up and makes it easy to decide which creatures Jaya should shoot down. The only thing I'd really like to add to this deck is a Godo, Bandit Warlord to tutor up your utility equipment and help close games out more quickly once you have the ground under control. Besides that, this deck seems like a very unique and powerful skeleton, and is something I'd love a chance to play against.