“And in 8th place, Orrin Beasley!”
As great as GP Dallas was, those words are gonna be tough to get out of my head. After my 3 byes, I took an early draw and cruised from there, finishing day one 8-0-1. I followed up on day two with a 4-2 record putting me in the same position as 7 other people: 12-2-1 and praying they were the 5 of the 7 who would be in the Top 8 (there were three people with records better than 12-2-1). I figured my name would be called (if at all) towards the bottom since most of the X-2s who had just IDed had much higher breakers than me. After fifth place was announced, I figured it was time to start paying attention. Unfortunately, my name was not called, and I finished in tenth.
Before GP Dallas I mainly tested Boros. I had it built on MTGO and was grinding games both in 8-mans and dailys and against Luis, Wrapter, and Michael Hetrick. Even though I didn’t end up playing Boros, I think the testing against Caw was almost as helpful as testing with Caw would’ve been. By playing against a deck you plan on playing, you can start thinking about how others will be attacking the deck.
The only other form of testing I did was playing in a MTGO PTQ with UW faeries. The deck is totally awesome, and I managed to record while top 4ing the PTQ (video should be up close to the release of this article). Getting used to playing a blue Stoneforge Mystic deck was definitely helpful, even though the support cards were obviously different.
As far as the list goes, I completely trusted Wrapter on the 75. He had been testing the deck more than just about anyone, and had what seemed like an awesome list with very logical sideboard plans. He also made some bold decisions like having 0 Wraths in the 75 that seemed pretty sweet for the metagame. Here’s the list Wrapter ended up shipping me:
Let me just start by saying Wrapter is a genius. This list did almost everything right. For starters, the removal suite is awesome. It doesn’t play Wrath, which isn’t as good as the cheaper removal against red decks or in the mirror. Oust is huge in the RUG matchup. In fact, the deck may want even more Ousts now that RUG will almost certainly increase in popularity. Having access to seven one mana removal spells post board makes aggro a great matchup. One Tumble Magnet is nice as it does do some powerful things, but you don’t want to draw too many. It’s clear that every card in the deck was just very well thought-out.
Next, Wrapter found Inkmoth Nexus. The card is unreal. Obviously, a significant number of people found the card after it showed up in some MTGO lists, but I don’t think anyone realized quite how good the card is (Wrapter included). After playing with it and talking with Wrapter, we both agreed that the card should actually be a 4-of, moving Tectonic Edge down to 2. Inkmoth’s primary job is to be a Sword holder. However, it is so much more versatile than that. It can block Sworded Hawks and Mystics, trades with Steppe Lynxes of any size in combat, and can even be a legitimate kill condition (especially if the count moves up to 4). Tec Edge is obviously a great card, but Inkmoth is even better.
Besides the list itself, the way Wrapter positioned himself with sideboard plans was also very clever. When on the play in the mirror, Mana Leak was there to give you more help in the Mystic and Hawk fights. However, on the draw, you get to board out the Leaks for Condemns. Condemn really helps you swing the tempo when your opponent starts with turn two Mystic on the play. This plan helped me and Wrapter take down a ton of mirrors.
As far as the mirror goes, I think the majority of people really misunderstand it. The mirror is all about board presence and tempo. Bouncing a Hawk or Stoneforge is usually better than Brainstorming with Jace. All you want to do is get ahead, because once you are, it is almost impossible to fall back behind. For example, Deprive is not a card we boarded in for the mirror. While everyone else was Brainstorming with Jace, [card deprive]Depriving[/card] our threats to set themselves further back, and blocking Sworded guys that were just going to make you discard, Wrapter and I were bouncing with Jace, leaving Deprive on the bench, and casually taking the damage. The reason that card advantage doesn’t matter in this blue/white control mirror is that the permanents are so powerful. Hitting with Sword multiple times, having a Jace live, and having Gideon live when you are ahead, are all easier if you press the advantage and value permanents higher. Once any of those things happen, it won’t matter how many cards you threw away to get there.
People hate playing spells in their first main. Thus, people will often attack with a Sworded guy without playing a spell, figuring that the opponent will block anyway and this way you will have more information before making a decision on what to play. If your opponent does this, you can just casually toss a card (again, card advantage isn’t that important) and press an advantage from there. On the other side, you should almost always play a first main phase spell when attacking with a Sworded guy to avoid letting your opponent do this. Obviously, your first reaction is to chump a Sworded creature, but it’s really important to really analyze how loose taking the damage is and make a rational decision.
For those of you curious about the RUG matchup (anyone who cares about Standard these days should be) I went 1-1 against RUG played by two of the top 8 competitors. Against MJ, he got mana screwed game one and then game two I just had a much better draw then him. Against Orrin, he crushed me with a Lotus Cobra nut draw one game and then managed to stick a Jace the second. Overall, I think the matchup is in RUG’s favor. If they have their nut draw (turn 2 Cobra) and you have your nut draw (turn 2 Stoneforge) they are going to crush you. They also have an edge in the “real” games because they are better at fighting Jace wars. The best way for you to win is to control their Cobra and get Stoneforge yourself. In order to do this, you need Oust. Thus, I think having four Ousts in the 75 and possibly as many as three main in order to combat RUG makes a lot of sense going forward.
As far as a final list goes, I think I would try something along these lines:
On the draw, in addition to the above:
Having Leaks on the play and Condemns on the draw is a big game. Other than that, everything else should be self-explanatory.
Squadron Hawk is terrible and Condemn and Tumble Magnet are both much worse answers than Oust.
The deck curves out much better post-board, so you actually don’t want Preordain.
Valakut: (assuming no Lotus Cobra)
This matchup becomes much better post board. Ironically, going up to 4 Inkmoth Nexus is crucial in this matchup as it means that Bolting Cobra isn’t going to solve their Sword-related issues. Even in the matchup where Tectonic Edge is most important, Nexus is better.
Caw Blade is the best deck right now. While it is a slight underdog in head-to-head with RUG, it is better against other decks. In addition, it is much more interactive and has a much more skill-intensive and interesting mirror match. If you want to play good interactive games of Magic every round (and win most of them), Caw Blade is the deck for you.