Tuesday, February 9, 2010

RWU with Worldwake... and Peter

Hi! I'm Peter Hurford. I'll pause for a moment for you to say "Hi". Maybe you could even shake my hand.

Hi, Peter!

Ok, ok. Hi. If you've seen me in any sort of Wizards forum, I'm "greg_the_egg". If you know me, you should comment, so I can feel famous for at least a few seconds.

If you've seen me outside of Magic, you may have run into my website http://www.greatplay.net. It's totally not Magic related at all, but it does have lots of fun math-y, science-y, and politic-y things.

But that's not the point. The point is, I'm here to write about Magic. Beyond the fact I don't know Lee in real life. I'm not into the touchy-feely parts about why do I play and how great of a game it is and how we need at least a few more solid blue cards, I'm here to write about something specific.

Worldwake is out. We've got some new toys. Let's run a control deck in Standard. Specifically, let's run RWU control.

Everything will be answered after the jump.

The List
Here is the list I've been playing on Magic Workstation since Worldwake has been legal.

// Lands
4 [WWK] Celestial Colonnade
3 [WWK] Halimar Depths
4 [M10] Glacial Fortress
4 [ZEN] Arid Mesa
4 [ZEN] Scalding Tarn
3 [LRW] Island
2 [M10] Plains
2 [ALA] Mountain

// Creatures
4 [WWK] Calcite Snapper
2 [ZEN] Sphinx of Jwar Isle

// Spells
4 [M10] Lightning Bolt
2 [CFX] Path to Exile
4 [WWK] Treasure Hunt
3 [M10] Essence Scatter
3 [ARB] Double Negative
4 [WWK] Jace, the Mind Sculptor
4 [ALA] Ajani Vengeant
2 [ZEN] Day of Judgment
2 [CFX] Martial Coup

// Sideboard
SB: 4 [M10] Baneslayer Angel
SB: 3 [M10] Negate
SB: 3 [M10] Flashfreeze
SB: 3 [M10] Earthquake
SB: 2 [ARB] Wall of Denial

Card-by-Card Analysis

4 Celestial Colonnade
* It's a UW land and a "creature land" -- the best of both worlds. You run 4 because it serves as essentially the old Sejiri Refuge until turn 8 or so, when you can use it to bash your opponent while keeping mana open for counters. It also serves as an attacker that you can get through control decks, and is good in the mirror (Pro tip: Since Colonnade has vigilance, you can use it for counter mana too.)

4 Calcite Snapper
* This guy is the second best new card for blue. It's the new Wall of Denial replacement, in my opinion. It still blocks about as many creatures as Wall with the same shroud protection, except it can kill annoying X/1s that attack repeatedly, like Bloodghast. However, it has the ability to go on the aggressive, which makes it great against other control decks, helps you get to a win easier, and can attack into planeswalkers.

4 Lightning Bolt
* This may become one of the most important pieces of removal in the new meta because it makes your opponent use their Jace, the Mindsculptor less effectively, as well as still being able to do what a Lightning Bolt normally does.

2 Path to Exile
* Two is the number from old control, and I believe that it's right -- as a control deck, you still really don't want to be handing your opponent Rampant Growths. You want to keep them moving as slow as possible, but you don't want to pass up the awesome removal either.

2 Day of Judgment
* Wrath's role in Standard has changed dramatically since people have stopped playing WW -- it's no longer the all-star spell, it's just another piece of removal. It's fair to use it just as Sphinx removal in the mirror, or whenever you can get some sort of advantage out of playing it.

3 Halimar Depths
* It's draw manipulation on a land. 3 may be 1 too many, but it helps you set up your draws while also possibly enabling awesome Treasure Hunts. It's more CA for your draw engine.

4 Treasure Hunt
* People have been tossing around the statistic that it draws about 1.7 cards, but it doesn't really matter. The point really is that it costs two mana -- fitting much better into the curve than Divination -- and will always draw you a non-land card. It's just quality draw that I feel bad people are passing up on.

4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
* This isn't card draw, it's a card engine -- something that has been missing from control since Time Spiral. People who have been saying that this card is bad or average are missing the point. I'll talk about it more in it's own section, but it deserves to be a 4 of.

3 Essence Scatter
* It's unfortunate that we have to be in a position where we're forced to maindeck Essence Scatter, but it's not a bad card. It can deal with the Goblin Ruinblasters, Siege-Gang Commanders, Broodmate Dragons, Malakir Bloodwitches, and Baneslayer Angels that are annoying to deal with otherwise. Make sure to keep mana open for it when you can.

3 Double Negative
* Double Negative is also a "bad" counterspell in a vacuum, but it's our only real answer to Mind Sludges while not having to run Negates maindeck. It's a strong spell in the late-game, and good in the mirror.

4 Ajani Vengeant
* This is your other bomb planeswalker. I still have not disliked having 4 because of Jace's ability to filter extras, and of it's ability to just secure your board position as soon as you get an advantage. It also turns the tide of the mirror if you can resolve it, so you want as many as possible.

2 Sphinx of Jwar Isle / 2 Martial Coup
* These are the win-cons I've decided work best in the maindeck. Sphinx is the shroud 5/5 everyone uses to good results, whereas Martial Coup is the closest WW gets to Cruel. It resets the board, but also provides you with immediate advantage in the form of an army of 1/1s.

SB: 4 Baneslayer Angel
* It's awkward to make a sideboard in preparation for a new meta, but the Baneslayer board-in-for-every-matchup still seems like a good plan. You board out whatever dead cards you can for Baneslayers, and then attack with that 5/5 everyone loves. You can also auto-win against dumb opponents who side out all their removal.

SB: 3 Negate
* It's good against the mirror and Grixis.

SB: 3 Flashfreeze
* It's good against Jund and Naya decks. You still want to be able to Flashfreeze Blightning when you get to post-board, and you never want to run a Jace out in to a Blightning.

SB: 3 Earthquake
* It's for Boros and Eldrazi.

SB: 2 Mind Control
* It's another answer against Malakir Bloodwitch, and it's great against decks that throw out Baneslayers but can't really protect them -- basically any white-playing non-blue deck.

What I didn't include
Everflowing Chalice
* In RWU, it's only good on turn 2. You can't afford to play it on any other turn, so it doesn't make the cut. However, I must admit, if you do get it turn 2 to enable a turn 3 planeswalker, you've basically won.

Mind Spring
* Now that we have a draw suite of Jace, Treasure Hunt, and Halimar Depths, why do I need to make room for Mind Spring? Mind Spring used to help out a bad draw suite, but now that we have a good draw suite, we don't need to tap out in the late game to regain the board. We can leave counter mana open.

Mysteries of the Deep
* It has the same argument against it as Mind Spring. You don't need more draw, so why include worse draw than you have? Why do you want 5cmc draw anyway? It's better because it allows you to keep a counter open with it's instant speed, but it's not better enough in my opinion.

Spreading Seas
* I never really liked the card in the first place, but with all the new CA you have you just don't want to bother making room for it. Jund is on the decline, and other decks aren't as effected by Spreading Seas. Not to mention, decks that laugh off Spreading Seas like the mirror and Grixis are increasing in popularity.

Wall of Denial
* Calcite Snapper is just better, and there's really no need for more than 4 Defenders.

More on Jace
Some people are saying Jace is bad. Others say Jace is good, but don't think it is a 4 of.

Essentially, as LSV is saying -- Jace is the first planeswalker that is capable of both immense card advantage and the ability to protect itself. I'd argue that maybe it's the second, as Ajani can get both CA and self-protection, and that's why Ajani is also played.

Jace has three modes. The first is the library manipulation to move itself out of bolt range. You should know the importance of just pushing up counters -- it's the same as +2ing with the old Jace. It's not particularly impressive, but you have a chance at screwing your opponent's draws while keeping Jace out of death range. It could win the game.

Jace can also Unsummon -- you slam him down on the board and pop back up the relevant threat the midrange deck just played, making him a continual mana sink. If, against a midrange deck, you manage to remove their first threat and then play Jace and unsummon their second, you have a Jace against their empty board. If they then spend their turn killing Jace, you have five lands against their little-to-no threats. And we all know who wins then.

Then there's the real ability. You draw three and put any two bad cards on top of your deck and shuffle them away with a fetchland. Essentially, you're drawing three cards... every time you use his ability.

Even if you only get to use the ability once, you've replaced Jace. The second turn, even without a fetchland, you'll draw one of your "bad" cards you put on top, but also get two fresh, new cards. It gets even more ridiculous if you set up a Treasure Hunt. Just surviving two turns with Jace's Brainstorm ability is game winning.

Some argue that Jace is bad against Jund, or a mixture of Bloodbraid Elf and Blightning. However, I'd say that even if it sucks against Jund, you're still better off than Divination ever would have done to win that match.

Also, it's safe to run as a 4 of because you absolutely want to have him as soon as possible, and Jace can Brainstorm away any extra copies which can be canned permanently with a fetchland.

When it comes down to it, Jace basically has Baneslayer Syndrome -- people want to believe it's bad because they don't want to spend $200 to pick up the playset.

Quick Matchup Analysis
Like I said before, the meta is poorly defined right now and we don't know what decks will make it out on top. Right now, I'd watch out for Jund, Vampires, the mirror, Grixis, and some sort of mid-range.

Being a control deck, you're still the crowd favourite against whatever midrange comes up. Especially with Ajani.

Vampires are going to be a bit trickier because they have Hexmage to bomb your planeswalkers and Bloodwitch dodges Paths, Ajanis, and single Bolts. And they have Duress, Sludge, and some new toys. It's relatively untested territory, but I hope the new increased power level of this deck combined with good play is enough to break even. Double Negatives and more Bloodwitch awareness in the MD certainly help.

Jund is obviously going to be just as difficult as it was pre-Worldwake and will require smarter play, but I think that you still have roughly the same headstart on them. You still have Bolt, an effective wall, CA, shroud to disable their removal, and an advantage in the late game. Just don't run a Jace into a Blightning... or a Bloodbraid.

Grixis and the mirror are both handled the same -- with counterspells, threats, and careful play. Don't get too aggressive.

That's all for now! Thanks!

Postscript Note: I haven't tried out post-WWK Grixis yet, but I don't really want to make the mana for a Cruel Ultimatum if I don't have to.