This week will be a bit more of an in-depth read, as I’ll be covering some of the specifics of the U/W Cycling deck that I played two weekends ago at Grand Prix Portland to a 15th place finish.
First off, a shout out to Paul Rietzl. I was going to play Ramunap Red or some control deck (likely Esper Approach) at GP Portland before he posted in our team forums saying that he was really liking his updated Cycling list. I picked it up, and was promptly rewarded with pairings against 5 Energy decks in my first League, 5-0’d, and locked it in. This deck tramples Energy because of the continued threat of being wrathed. Because the Energy decks have moved away from a variety of different threat types (like planeswalkers and enchantments) to narrowing in on the most powerful creature threats, it makes it much easier to fight them with cards like Settle the Wreckage and Fumigate.
The goal of this deck is to spend the first few turns of the game cycling through your deck to try to find a Settle the Wreckage or a Fumigate to destroy the board and gain a severe card advantage. Thus, you have 14 cards that cycle for a single mana. This allows you to see about 12 cards before turn 5 to find one of the 6 wrath effects. This, however, is not a good enough rate in my mind. As such, the only change I would currently make to the deck is to cut a main-deck Drake Haven for a Settle the Wreckage, and make a direct swap.
The transition in the midgame starts with countering and Cast Outing the opponent’s non-attacking creature threats (For example, Chandra, Torch of Defiance, Glint-Sleeve Siphoner, Hidden Stockpile). As you begin to make inroads, you want to stick a Drake Haven and begin making your army of 2/2 flyers. The endgame for this deck is just to cycle each turn, make Drakes, and leave your opponent helpless as you attack them with nearly limitless Drakes. The “backup” win condition is to play Abandoned Sarcophagus and draw about 12 cards. Because this allows you to cast the Countervailing Winds and Cast Outs in the graveyard, you’re really just face-up telling your opponent, “If your spell resolves, don’t fret—I’ll exile it.”
My record at the GP was 9-3 after my 3 byes. I managed the following records:
- Mono-Red: 4-2 (0-1 against Big Red, 4-1 against Ramunap Red)
- Energy: 5-0 (2-0 against Temur, 2-0 against 4-Color Energy, 1-0 against Sultai)
- Pummeler: 0-1
Tips and Tricks
• If you cycled a spell on turn 1 and play a Search for Azcanta on turn 2, it’s important to mill the next three cards. Assuming that you’re still spending your mana cycling on turns 3 and 4, or at least casting spells that interact with your opponent, this will get you to enough cards in the graveyard to get a sixth land on turn 5, which allows you to both cycle a card and find a Fumigate or a Settle the Wreckage.
• You should always cycle on turn 1, unless the card is a Censor. (There are likely exceptions to this, but I have not played against Tokens enough to know that I always want my Cast Out in hand rather than just digging through my library.)
• When you have Sarcophagus out, it’s almost always better to cycle your cycling card before casting it as you get to draw a card with it and then cast it.
• If you Fumigate a Rampaging Ferocidon, you still gain the life as the first line of text is: Destroy all creatures, which results in the Ferocidon’s static ability turning off, and then you gaining 1 life for each creature destroyed.
• Going to your cleanup step and discarding to hand size comes up sometimes. Remember that this causes triggers on your Drake Havens as you discarded a card. You can use these triggers to make Drake tokens.
Sideboarding with this deck is light relative to many other decks. The reason for this is that you’re pretty dedicated to having enough cycling cards in your deck without disrupting that balance. As such, you have a dedicated sideboard for control decks and for aggro decks.
On the Play
On the Draw
These games tend to come down to whether the U/W Cycling player has a Settle the Wreckage or a Fumigate. They should alpha attack you nearly every turn of the game. Thus, spend your mana trying to find a Settle. Drake Haven is useful in this matchup to make some chump blockers early, but against Rampaging Ferocidon it’s a liability. As such, you want to spend a counterspell on a Ferocidon if possible, and have a Cast Out for it at the ready (it’s much more deadly than a silly Hazoret the Fervent is)! I think this is actually a good matchup. Game 1 is pretty tricky, but games 2 and 3 are really favorable, especially if you draw an Authority of the Consuls.
On the Play
On the Draw
The Temur match is all about preventing your opponent from keeping a board state. Temur is harder than most because of Glorybringer, and may cause you to lose a game you nearly have under control from about 7 or so life. In sideboarded games, it’s all about making sure a Nissa, Steward of Elements and Chandra, Torch of Defiance don’t take over the game. You want to fight over the creatures and hold onto Cast Out and Negate to fight over your opponent’s planeswakers and counterspells. A big hint here is that you want to cast a Settle the Wreckage or Cast Out and untap into a Fumigate once that spell is countered given the option.
The 4th color actually makes it easier unless the enemy is on the Gonti and Glint-Sleeve Siphoner plan. The 4th color slows the Energy deck down for more powerful options—ones that you can easily navigate your way through if you’ve mastered the art of cycling into your wrath effects. In sideboarded games, the counterspells are mostly for the same cards. Fire off Jace’s Defeat whenever you can, but Negate should be pointed at the opponent’s Vraska/Chandra/Nissa as per the Temur matchup.
This matchup (Approach/U/B) plays out much the same way. You want to try to stick a threat the turn they’re aiming to play a card draw spell. Against Approach, if they move into a creature plan, like Regal Caracal, it’s reasonable to bring your own in as you don’t want to be bringing in Fumigate. The reason the matchups are favorable is because you function on a mana advantage and have fewer dead cards in game 1 (thanks, cycling!). While your enemies are trying to cast 5-7 mana spells, you’re trying to resolve 3-mana spells. This allows you to double-spell on key turns (usually turns 5-7 when the enemy is trying to turn the corner) and provide a huge advantage. Against U/B, keep Censors for late in the game Gearhulks to counter. Against U/W, cycle them more aggressively, as the prominent builds are not playing a way to kill you main deck outside of Approach.
I’ll be running this deck through a League on Magic Online here later in the week. I’ll see if I can run back another solid performance with the deck, as I expect this to be one of the most popular decks at the World Magic Cup this weekend. I expect it to perform very well given the state of the metagame!