The most recent Invitational was important for a few reasons. First, it showed us that Griselbrand is not destroying the format, and Wizards was correct not to ban it. Second, a few people brought Merfolk as a metagame choice. The deck put up a good showing, and put one player in the Top 8. I talked to Justin Uppal, usually on RUG, and he raved about the deck, so I decided to pick it up for the Legacy Open on Sunday.
While most people in the Invitational were on MUFolk, Saito once showed me, quite directly, how good Perish is. So long as green has the best creatures in the format, I’ll prefer Saito ‘Folk to mono-blue. As a side bonus, the black sources let you cast Dismember painlessly.
Another aspect of the Invitational lists that I didn’t like was the full four Phantasmal Image. While I admit the card is good in the deck, and I understand how effective it is at clearing giant legends out of the way, it can still clunk up some ‘Folk draws when drawn in multiples. It can’t, for example, be shown to Silvergill Adept, and against a deck with removal it’s risky to play the card with only one threat in play. Thus, your threat-light hands are even more threat-light, and the Image takes the place of a piece of disruption that might buy a turn.
This is what I ran:
I went X-3 in played matches, beating decks like Affinity, MUD, and Maverick, going 1-1 against RUG, and losing to Sneak and Show and High Tide. After the day, I was very happy with my maindeck. Stifle, while a nonbo with Standstill, is an excellent card to show to your opponents in game one, even if you just pitch it to Force of Will. Most opponents will do their best to play around the card for the rest of the match—after all, who would only play one Stifle?
After playing the deck, I would cut the Spell Pierce for a maindeck Sower of Temptation. Every time that card entered play, I won the game. It’s another great creature for Image to copy, and it’s even a card against Show and Tell. Rule of thumb: If Sower is ever good against combo, it’s a maindeck card.
Over the course of the weekend, I saw a number of people struggling with Merfolk math. This is an important skill, even if you aren’t playing the deck, as you have a chance of playing against it again.
A lord is always a base 2/2, plus the number of lords around it. Cursecatcher is the size of the lords around it, Silvergill Adept is always a lord +1/+0, and Mutavault is a lord +1/+1. Corelhelm seems tricky at first, but is easy to figure out once you know the rest of the battlefield. With these rules in mind, it should only take a glance at a board of attacking Cursecatcher, Mutavault, and double Lord of Atlantis to see that the defending player is taking 13.
I also saw people forgetting all of the uses of Merrow Reejerey. Remember that the card doesn’t just tap opposing creatures, untap your lands, and untap creatures post-combat to give them vigilance. Perhaps most importantly, it untaps your Aether Vial, which leads to one of the more powerful interactions the deck has to offer. Tap Vial, put in Reejerey, cast a Merfolk from hand, untap Vial, put in another Reejerey. Often, getting an extra lord into play is the difference between winning and losing.
If you’re worried about beating ‘Folk, the most reliable way to go about it is spot removal combined with Pithing Needle. Needle doesn’t just hit Vial, though that is crippling. If your opponent doesn’t have a Vial, or if it’s late game, then Coralhelm Commander, Mutavault, and Wasteland are all fine targets.
Of the removal available, [card swords to plowshares]Plow[/card] effects are the most common, but Red Elemental Blast is ideal since it can counter a Force of Will or a [card kira, great glass-spinner]Kira[/card]. Speaking of Kira, if you have a Karakas you can use it to strip Kira of its shield, allowing you to dispatch it with a single removal spell. If the Kira is attacking, Maze of Ith serves a similar function.
Like most tribal decks, ‘Folk doesn’t want to see counters on an opponent’s [card umezawa's jitte]Jitte[/card]. [card llawan, cephalid empress]Llawan[/card], while a powerful hoser, is too narrow for the current format.
I saw someone grinding Painter this weekend, which is one deck I haven’t shoved Griselbrand into yet.
There are a few reasons not to play this deck right now. First off, Sneak and Show is a deck, and killing a Sneak player with a Painter’s Servant and a Grindstone is going to need to have a graveyard removal effect (such as a Relic of Progenitus) to exile the [card emrakul, the aeons torn]Emrakuls[/card] with their triggers on the stack. On the plus side, Griselbrand is a fine answer to an opposing Show and Tell.
Another reason is that the deck is susceptible to some splash hate, as Pithing Needle is a fine answer to Sneak Attack. While Needle can be Red Elemental Blasted with a Painter’s Servant on blue in play, it’s one more piece of disruption to fight through.
Finally, this is a Force of Will deck with 16 blue spells. This is more than the last time I played Painter, when I ran 14. Fortunately, you can pitch any card, like a Griselbrand or an extra Grindstone, to Force with a Painter’s Servant in play.
Maverick, a rough matchup due to its amount of removal for both artifacts and creatures, is on the down turn. Relic of Progenitus, normally an iffy maindeck card, seems downright reasonable in a sea of RUG and Reanimator. With most of the top tier decks playing Brainstorm, Red Elemental Blast is a fantastic card to maindeck.
Speaking of Red Elemental Blast, I already mentioned how good the card is against Merfolk. Over all of the tournaments I played Painter, I never lost to a mono-blue deck once.
The [card jace, the mind sculptor]Jaces[/card] in the sideboard are new for me. I have seen them used before, I think in one of Christian Valenti’s lists. The idea is that, against a deck where Show and Tell isn’t ideal—say, a control deck with Humility—the Jaces can be brought in as a new, alternate win condition. This deck can drop the card on turn two, after all.
Speaking of Humility, it probably doesn’t work with Painter’s Servant the way you think it does. Before the M10 rules changes, both cards were in the same layer, and thus one could have dependency. As such, Humility would prevent Painter’s Servant from doing anything.
Now, however, color-changing abilities and ability changers are divided into layer’s five and six. As such, Painter’s Servant will change everything’s color, and then Humility will remove its ability. If you activate a Grindstone with both a Painter’s Servant and a Humility in play, you will mill your opponent.
Land Tax Unbanned
As usual, I’m a fan of things not being banned, as people should be allowed to play with their cards. That’s the point, right?
I’m even more a fan of things being unbanned if they pose no real threat. A card like Mind Twist, in a format with Grim Monolith, Sol lands, and Metalworker, could be damaging, leading to players discarding their entire hand on turn two with some consistency. Land Tax, on the other hand, is much safer.
Yes, the card can do powerful things. That’s why it’s on the banned list in the first place. However, the current format is much different than the one in which the card elicited a banning. Skipping a land drop can be fatal with [card thalia, guardian of thraben]Thalia[/card] in the format; Aven Mindcensor and Qasali Pridemage are maindeckable answers to the card itself; and the amount of basics necessary to run Land Tax is prohibitive on the manabase.
What happens when the enchantment gets countered? Have you tried casting Scroll Rack in Legacy lately? This writer has, and he was unimpressed. Also, Aether Vial, [card delver of secrets]Delver[/card], and Noble Hierarch decks can, and will, operate off of one land, preventing Land Tax from ever activating. That, combined with the combo decks that a Land Tax deck shouldn’t beat, encompasses a large chunk of the metagame.
While the card is obviously powerful, I don’t see it as a good choice for the upcoming GP. The ideas that instantly come to mind aren’t very good. Sure, you can play it with Seismic Assault, but that limits you to few colors due to having to run so many basics.
Such a deck might look something like so:
If the deck wanted to run Life from the Loam, it could off of a single Forest, but I don’t think it wants to. After all, Loam starts being effective once your enablers are already in place. Once that happens, Land Tax and Seismic Assault should be enough to kill the opponent.
Luminarch Ascension and Entreat the Angels might make fine backup win conditions, but they don’t mesh well with Humility—which is great against the current field. Yes, the opponent is left with 1/1s to kill you, but it takes more than a few dorks to race a Lightning Helix deck. Meanwhile, Humility answers difficult threats like Show and Tell and Qasali Pridemage.
[card elspeth, knight-errant]Elspeth[/card] is a fine choice, and I could see some lists going up to two of the card—but I prefer Isochron Scepter, which operates better under Land Tax. Besides that, burn compliments the Seismic Assault plan nicely.
The main problem with the deck is that it looks downright terrible against the current metagame. You’re never really beating a Sneak Attack, and most decks have ways of handling what you’re trying to do. The last time RW was viable in Legacy was some time ago. The deck, Rifter, was returning Eternal Dragon and killing the opponent with Lightning Rift. It was a glass cannon deck, destroying the creature decks and losing to combo.
Similarly, I can see the above list losing to combo, and maybe beating a creature deck or two. With combo being the best deck in the format, however, RW is probably not profitable to work on at the moment.
Perhaps a UW shell, similar to the current miracle deck, would better fit it. After all, that’s one reason Squadron Hawk was so deadly in Caw Blade, as a single [card jace, the mind sculptor]Jace[/card] Brainstorm could turn extra Hawks into fresh cards. With an active Land Tax, both Jace and Brainstorm will be able to do the same trick with basic lands, and a player might get away with tutoring for the same basics every turn. As such, a UW deck could get away with running a fewer number of basics, say six, and still maximize the value of Land Tax. Instead of Blood Moon, such a deck would run Back to Basics.
Land Tax can overfill the hand to work as a discard outlet. This might prove effective with cards like Tombstalker or Planar Birth + Zuran Orb. Some Parfait lists were based around the Planar Birth and Land Tax interaction, and would use Sacred Mesa as a mana dump.
Enchantress is a deck that wants a critical mass of enchantments. Since the deck is two colors, Land Tax might make a fine addition. I could see the thinning impact of a single activation being relevant when trying to combo off with this deck. Also, Land Tax has some direct synergy with Solitary Confinement.