Martyr for the Cause
In real life Magic, the deck to beat is definitely Zoo. However, on MTGO I am expecting a lot of Zoo, but even more Scapeshift and Mono-Red burn decks. Those 2 decks just aren't that hard or expensive to build, and just seem to be what people are running more of in the Extended 8-Mans and Premiers. Since Scapeshift versus Red will generally be decided by the die roll and Scapeshift versus Scapeshift is obviously not too much fun, I am not dying to play Scapeshift in the MTGO PTQs. It's a great deck and I’ve played it a lot, but I think it will shine more in-person where people play more Zoo and less burn.
So, I’ve started brewing. When I was trying to find a deck with a natural advantage against Red and Scapeshift, one of the first decks I came across was Martyr. One card gaining 15 or so life on average is obviously going to trump a deck full of Lightning Bolts and the ability to just gain some life and lock out a combo deck is pretty sweet. Here is the list I am currently running:
So as you could probably have guessed, this is a fun one. I usually go into matchups and sideboarding when I am writing about a deck, but I think for this deck it will be more useful if I talk about the cards in the deck and what our deck does. Sorry if some of that is obvious to some people, but there is definitely a lot going on.
Path to Exile – Path is the catch-all card of the format. Great against Zoo, Affinity, Dark Depths and just generally curing what ails ya.
Martyr of Sands – With almost the whole deck being White you gain access to one of the most powerful cards in Magic. 2 mana gain 18 life is unreal. Even if you never combo or get recursion going, with the card draw in the deck, keeping your hand loaded isn't a problem and Martyr gains a ridiculous amount of life.
Compulsive Research – A nice card draw spell for the deck. You don't have counterspells, so the card drawing being a sorcery isn't an issue, and you do have 26 lands and Life from the Loam so the ability to discard 1 land or 2 cards works out quite nicely.
Gifts Ungiven – Gifts is the card that allows you to have access to everything: the recursion engines, the powerful one-ofs, and of course, the pile of Witness, Mannequin, and X, which gets you X.
Bant Charm – The Charm is Path to Exile’s big brother, and Saito even went so far as to put it into Zoo. It kills Thopter Foundry, Dark Depths tokens, Chalice of the Void, Baneslayer Angel, Gaddock Teeg, and oh ya, it even counters opponent’s Gifts Ungiven. Want more?
2 Day of Judgment, 2 Wrath of God, 1 Engineered Explosives – Obviously, the variety makes it so you can Gifts for them and be guaranteed at least one. You don't have any relevant permanents until the late game, so the ability to handle whatever your opponent is doing is paramount to this deck's success.
Ranger of Eos – Ranger is a sweet way to go get multiple Martyrs or the fog Kami, depending which is better at the time. Gifts for Mannequin, Resurrection, Ranger, and Martyr will often put a game far out of reach for any aggressive deck.
Sphinx of Lost Truths – Much like Ranger, the Sphinx doesn't do anything that is strictly necessary, but sometimes you end up with excess lands in hand when playing a 26 land deck, and any time I draw the Life from the Loam, I usually Gifts him up and employ that little combo to basically turn him into a draw 3 for 5 mana with a 3/5 flying body.
Necrotic Sliver- Sliver plus Emeria should be able to deal with just about anything.
Resurrection/Makeshift Mannequin/Eternal Witness – This Gifts pile is the way you get back what you tutor up. This really helped break this deck, because now if you need the life gain to seal up the game you can tutor for Martyr, Mannequin, Proclamation, Witness and say goodnight.
1 Kami of False Hope – Sometimes fog is better than Martyr, like against Thopter Foundry, Affinity, a Dark Depths token or just a runaway board in general. There have been many times where I have been very happy to have this one-of.
3 Negate – Most of the cards that will give you problems after sideboard are spells, like graveyard hate or stuff like Cranial Extraction. Obviously, it also just counters a lot of cards out of Scapeshift/Thopter Foundry or Blue decks in general.
2 Cranial Extraction – Cranial is a big part of why you play Black. This card just solves things for a deck like this. Great against dredge/any form of combo/ or if your opponent has the right answers to bring in against you.
1 Relic/Crypt/Trap – You run the split on graveyard hate so you can Gifts it up; past that it's pretty obvious this is a good slot to have in the current Extended.
2 Kitchen Finks/1 Oblivion Ring/2 Journey of Nowhere – While this is the Zoo package, some of the cards have some other pretty important uses. Journey is great against Dark Depths. You need to kill early Confidants, and you always gain life so it can actually kill a 20/20 token even after it attacks you once. The O-Ring is a catch-all card for Planeswalkers or whatever generic permanents decks are running, like Pithing Needle or Blood Moon.
Pithing Needle/Extirpate – Both of these are great generic answers to different combo decks, control decks, or cards other people will be trying to use against you. Extirpate recursion can quickly give decks fits, as well as lock up the game if you can get the right card with it.
Objective One – Gain Life
The Martyr of Sands/Proclamation of Rebirth combo is critical. Activating a single Martyr will almost always win you the game against burn, and it will generally give you more than enough time to set up your midgame against any aggressive deck such as Affinity or Zoo. Oh, and the second time you Martyr will generally finish off the game against Scapeshift.
Objective Two – Traditonal Blue/White midgame
Blue/White control has always moved towards a win in the mid game by gaining card advantage, and this deck has lots of great ways to do that, with five "Wrath effects" to answer your opponent's threats and Compulsive Research and Gifts Ungiven to blatantly draw cards and set up your late game.
Objective Three – Set up the most powerful end game in the world
Our end game trumps everything. With the ability to recur Necrotic sliver and Martyr you can blow up everything or gain near-infinite life. If you bring back Wrath with Witness then Wrath, you can always bring back Witness + Wrath again. I find once you have Emeria going you are almost always going to win.
Sideboarding Guide and Matchup Notes
-1 Sphinx, -1 Eternal Witness, -1 Ghost Quarter, -1 Life from the loam, -1 Gifts ungiven,
+2 Kitchen Finks, +2 Journey to Nowhere, +1 Oblivion Ring
I normally assume they are going to have some sort of graveyard hate in their sideboard, therefore the excess recursion that can bog down your opening hand isn't really necessary. Bringing back Martyr will be good enough, and with the amount of removal and Wrath ability you have, beating them with Kitchen Finks, Ranger of Eos, Crovax, and Necrotic Sliver will not usually be a problem. You're just looking to maximize your ability to kill creatures and gain life.
Against Mono-Red Burn:
-2 Wrath of god, -2 Day of Judgment, -1 Sphinx, -1 Compulsive Research,
+3 Negate + 2 Kitchen Finks, +1 Oblivion Ring
I usually bring in the O-Ring and leave in the 1 Engineered Explosives because they are slightly faster ways to kill Goblin Guide and Keldon Marauders, and even though they rarely play Blood Moon, having outs to it is always nice. In this matchup, once you fire off a Martyr, you have pretty much won, so the Negates and Finks can buy you the time to Gifts one up. The main reason I consider Martyr an excellent choice for the MTGO PTQs and an average one for in-person is because I am anticipating a lot more Mono-Red online then in real life.
- 1 E.E, -4 path, -1 Day of Judgement, -1 Wrath of God, -1 Kami of the False God,
+3 Negate, +2 Cranial Extraction, +2 Kitchen Finks, +1 Extirpate
Since they don't play any real creatures you're mostly just boarding out your creature kill. Bant Charm counters an instant so it remains useful. The one copy of each Wrath is just in case they board in Finks or something, or just have a lot of their little creatures out. They will probably be bringing in graveyard hate, which you are ready for with Negates and Cranials. Also once you get your life above 50 or so they can't really win, which means you usually Gifts up the Ranger package and lock them out of the game. Try and do it when you can have Negate back up or after a Cranial if possible. Don't let them be able to stop you unless you just don't have the time. Another reason I think this is the deck to play online is because I am expecting Scapeshift to be considerably more popular than Dark Depths or Thopter Foundry.
I think that those will pretty much be the most popular decks online and there are way too many decks to cover each matchup, so I just want to talk a little more about the deck. You basically have answers to everything and really sick card advantage with Gifts, Research, and Wraths. All the creature decks that did well in the first MTGO PTQ are pretty easy matchups. You don't want to run the deck if people are playing a lot of faeries or Rock/Death Cloud type decks. If you expect to face a focused metagame of the most played Extended decks, then it is an excellent metagame call.
I pretty much always try and board in the Negates and board out whatever cards I think are luxury Gifts targets in the matchup, because most people will be sideboarding in graveyard hate, so you are looking to play more like a Blue-White control deck and less like a reanimator/recursion type deck after sideboard. I strongly recommend practicing a lot before you play this deck in any tournament. You pretty much always have to know exactly what you want to Gifts for, as well as on which turn you want to do things. You win some easy games with all the extra life and removal, but the hard games are very hard. I have wanted to go up to 4 Kitchen Finks in the sideboard since I made the deck, but all the cards currently there do some pretty cool things and I haven't been able to figure out what to remove.