What’s Hot in Block?

The topic on everyone’s mind at the moment is the changes announced by Wizards of the Coast last week. Since there are so many articles out there discussing this topic, I don’t want to be just another person making the same points. Because of that, I have not written an article about the changes, but I do not like them; I’d encourage anyone who feels the same, whether you’re a pro, casual player, or a new player, to sign the petition that can be found here.

The sky may be falling, but I still continue to love Magic. This week, I have been starting to get into Block. I don’t currently have enough cards online, so I have been brewing and watching people play. If you think Block is not relevant to you, think again! There will be a Pro Tour later next year for Innistrad Block that you could be qualified for. It is also an incredibly nice change from Standard or Limited. Finally, I want to watch a whole metagame develop from scratch as a learning experience. I look forward to watching decks develop, adapt to other lists, and later add in cards from each new set to complement their strategies. This week, I want to share lists for the main strategies I have seen online and talk about what I like about these strategies. I am not going to include sideboards until I’ve seen more of the metagame.

When considering Block, it is kind of like building the best Sealed deck ever. If you see a card with synergy in Limited, you can probably build a decent deck around it in Block. Take Burning Vengeance, for example. You can draft that deck, but imagine how much better it would be with all the good Flashback spells and four copies of Burning Vengeance. With this in mind, let’s build some decks.

First up, we have the rather unsurprising Block version of G/W Township. I thought this would be a very straightforward conversion, but it actually lost many spells, most notably Hero of Bladehold, Mirran Crusader, and Elspeth Tirel. However, you can run a Human subtheme to help boost the deck with Champion of the Parish and Mayor of Avabruck. The Mayor is a definite inclusion—I’ve seen so many Block games end with a concession after a turn-two Mayor has resolved. Champion of the Parish rapidly becomes huge since all of you creature spells are Humans. Admittedly, Silent Departure is annoying, but you probably were able to hit the opponent for a lot of damage first.

While looking for other options to fill our deck, I ran into Elite Inquisitor. This card, if you haven’t had the chance to play with it in Limited, is an absolute bomb. It has protection from so many cards, and even if that isn’t relevant in a particular match, 2/2 creatures with First Strike and Vigilance are pretty good value for just {W}{W}. Imagine how good it becomes once we start putting +1/+1 counters on it.

I wasn’t quite sure what selection of things to put in the remaining slots. We have several choices, including Doomed Traveler, Cloistered Youth, Hamlet Captain, Midnight Haunting, Mentor of the Meek, and Fiend Hunter. Here is a final version that I would currently play, though I suspect that it will shift based on the metagame at any particular time.

I like this deck a lot. I like it in Standard at the moment, and I alternate between it and good old Birthing Pod as my mood changes. It has a large amount of raw power and is nigh unstoppable once it gets online. There are relatively few Wrath effects in the format at the moment, so it can just steamroll your opponent. Also, putting a lot of counters everywhere is fun. You normally only run four Garruks in the Standard version, but planeswalkers are so powerful in Block right now that I want to hit one every game, and I want to do so as early as possible. If I have Garruks stuck in my hand, I’m probably winning.

Next up, we have the aforementioned Burning Vengeance deck. I’ve seen a couple of variants of this, but I think I’m going to stick with the U/R version with a small Black splash. I suspect that this deck does poorly against the Township deck and is weak when it fails to find its signature card. However, it can do some pretty fun and powerful things once it gets going, and I definitely want to try it out at some point. Here is a sample list. Basically, just take the good U/R cards with Flashback and go!

You may think that the Swamp is unnecessary, but with all the Ghost Quarters knocking around in Block right now, I think having a copy to fetch may be useful and will not compromise your mana base too much. It’s possible that you should be running some Ghost Quarters, but maybe just in the sideboard. The other thing to note if you are considering running this deck is that Witchbane Orb exists . . . and the Burning Vengeance trigger is not optional. That may prove awkward, particularly because any deck can run the Orb.

When in doubt, turn to Red! I like to see if there is a Red Deck Wins–style list in any new format. People are running mono-Red decks with some success, but I don’t like them. The deck is missing some good early drops at the moment, but the archetype may be a stronger competitor once later sets come out. My main issue with the deck is not the 1-drops—those are great—but the 2-drops, which have to include Bloodcrazed Neonate, which is only okay, and Ashmouth Hound, which is truly uninspiring. Still, here is a list if you want to try it out.

This deck just seems like a worse aggro deck than the Township list, but the burn gives it some reach that the other deck is missing.

Have you tried drafting a deck built around Boneyard Wurm and Splinterfright? It’s a little awkward to put together, and it’s hard to make work well, since many of the cards you need are popular in other decks. But in short, the plan is to put a bunch of creatures in your own graveyard using cards such as Armored Skaab, Mulch, and Forbidden Alchemy. Then, you make huge guys on the cheap. In Block, we can streamline this and also run a full play set of Kessig Cagebreakers—they’re basically auto-wins if they get to attack. I’ve watched it a lot in the Casual Room online, and this deck looks like the most fun to play. However, the mirror is pretty dull and is basically decided by who plays a Cagebreakers first. Here is a sample list. Do run this if you get the chance—it looks like the most fun since the Zombie Infestation/Treasure Hunt deck in last season’s Standard.

We have seen the major versions of the aggro decks, but what of control? Well, I’ve been playing around with some ideas. They mostly involve Garruk and Liliana. Then, I was watching some online games, and I discovered that other people have had the same idea! Awesome . . . it turns out I wasn’t barking up the wrong tree, and these decks are doing pretty well. More important, these players have spotted something I hadn’t. Bloodgift Demon is a fantastic card-draw engine and a good finisher. He is the Consecrated Sphinx of the set. Yes, I know it’s not the same, but he’s still pretty good. There are two versions I like: G/U/B and B/R/G. The Blue offers Forbidden Alchemy for card selection, Dissipate for countermagic, and Silent Departure, which is an excellent tempo play and pretty good against Champion of the Parish and Stromkirk Noble. The Red gives us access to Blasphemous Act as a board-sweeper, Devil's Play as a finisher or removal spell, and the crowning jewel Olivia Voldaren. She is the best card in Limited; is she as good in Block? It’s unclear—I’ll need to try playing with her first, but her potential utility in a control deck really appeals to me.

Both of the decks only really splash Green for Garruk, but he is so worth it. Making a 2/2 every turn can give many decks a headache, and he doubles as a removal spell, and later as a tutor effect. This versatility makes him great, and a control deck thrives on performing more actions per turn than its opponent. Below are some lists. If you want to know which I would load up and run right now, I’d go with the Red version just to discover whether Olivia works (also, I love Red). If you have tried these lists out, let me know which you think is best. I’d love you to hear your opinions.

Well, there you have it. A lot of Block events are firing online, and it is fairly popular in the Tournament Practice room, so if you fancy a change, pick a deck you like and start playing. Feel free to suggest other decks or share your preference in the comments below. Also, if there is any particular subject you’d like me to talk about, please ask.