This past weekend I played in Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad after preparing for weeks with ChannelFireball’s Team Pantheon. It was a brand new format with Khans of Tarkir rotating out, and lots of interesting new cards from Shadows over Innistrad. As such, we arrived in Spain with lots of decks to try out—even a few days before, many of us were unsure what to play. As you may know, the majority of the team chose a Seasons Past control deck, which the masterful Jon Finkel used to dominate the Swiss rounds en route to the Top 8. I was not so keen on the deck and preferred a black/white deck, which had garnered some interest earlier in our testing but was no longer at the top of anyone else’s list.
This is a good plan against decks that have a hard time with planeswalkers and are weak to Thought-Knot Seer, Anguished Unmaking, and discard. This is not as good a plan against decks like Bant Company and White Weenie, whose cards are more interchangeable and are too fast for Gideon, although Avacyn and Tragic Arrogance are extremely good against White Weenie and decent versus Bant.
There is also a lot of room for outmaneuvering your opponent with Eldrazi Displacer, Avacyn, and lots of interactive cards—interesting decisions to make. Definitely my style, though I certainly got outmaneuvered myself a few times in the Pro Tour.
I played 3 matches against White Weenie going 1-2, and 3 matches against Bant Company going 1-2, as well as a match with Green/Black Sacrifice where I lost in 2 games. Against my good matchups I went 3-0, beating Black/Red Midrange, Black/White Control, and White/Red Goggles.
Ideas on the Deck
You do not usually have inevitability, strange as that sounds. Even decks like White Weenie can win a long game against you with a Gideon emblem and a Secure the Wastes if you are not careful. As such, this is very much a midrange deck and it is important to close the deal as soon as you get a chance to start attacking. Against Bant Company, they have so many ways to find new cards (Recruiter, Tireless Tracker, Jace, Collected Company, Ojutai’s Command, etc.) that you want to be aggressive as soon as possible.
Thought-Knot Seer is usually one of your best cards and you should rarely ever sideboard it out. After board, most decks become a little slower, and the discard effect on this 4/4 becomes even more potent. It also clears the way for Avacyn and is potentially devastating with Eldrazi Displacer.
Against decks that are not ramping or playing weenies, Knight of the White Orchid is pretty weak on the play. On the draw you should go up to 4 and usually side out a Llanowar Wastes, Swamp, or Sea Gate Wreckage.
Gideon is weak on the draw in many matchups, and very weak to Declaration in Stone. He’s often a hero against control or ramp, though (where Reality Smasher can give you a pair of 5/5 attackers as early as turn 4).
Ultimate Pricing your own creature or Warping Wail to make a 1/1 sacrificial Eldrazi is a perfectly good way to flip your Avacyn, but there’s often no need to rush it. Your deck has a lot of mana and no Sphinx’s Revelation or Ugin to shut the door on your opponent, so you need to get good value from your cards.
Sorin is a good 6-drop, but not as good as you might hope—certainly no Elspeth or Primeval Titan. Linvala is the only other good 6 I could find, but she’s often only +5 life because of all the Knights and Hedron Crawlers, as well as Tragic Arrogance after sideboard. If you can find a better 6-mana play, let me know! Quarantine Field and Descend upon the Sinful are interesting ideas.
Tragic Arrogance can be awesome, and often lets you save everything you might want to save (Hedron Crawler is your artifact), but lots of decks get more wrath-resistant after sideboard so it won’t be as big a blowout as you might want. Thought-Knot them first to get their Negate.
All in all this is a fun deck to run and effective against much of the metagame, but not one I’d want to play against Collected Company decks. Good luck, and enjoy.