Building Innistrad Block

Written by John Cuvelier on . Posted in Block Constructed, Competitive Magic

Building Innistrad Block

John Cuvelier

John is a respected deck designer who's been credited with the Modern Aggroloam deck that took down GP Lincoln in 2012. He's a fixture at the Top 8 tables of Florida and MTGO PTQs. He's played on six Pro Tours and his personal goal is to ride the PT train to glory and riches, well at least glory.

Innistrad Block is something lots of people are still unfamiliar with, and for good reason. Up until this point, the only Block tournaments around seem to be mostly focused on Magic Online. Fortunately for us, they have already banned some powerhouse cards that really defined the format and prevented innovation, such as Lingering Souls and Intangible Virtue.

With these cards banned, let’s take a look at what has been performing well online to get a feel for what the format is all about.

Public enemy number one: Boros

This is currently the most powerful aggressive deck in block. It has numerous ways to achieve turn four kills, and it takes a lot to slow them down. You think you stabilize the board, just to be burned out from Devil’s Play or Brimstone Volley. There are a few different versions of Boros. What makes this list different and, in my opinion, better from the others is that it has four Stromkirk Noble main to give it an advantage in the mirror. If Boros continues to dominate the format, doing something small like adding Stromkirk Noble will give you the edge you need. From what’s been spoiled already, Avacyn Restored only promises to increase the power level of this deck. If you plan on playing or testing block anytime soon, this is a good list to have in your gauntlet.

Jund is the control deck of the block so far. It has the mana fixing, the board sweepers, and the finishers. The deck is declining in popularity, however, as it still struggles to consistently beat Boros even with the large quantity of removal. Let’s take a look at a list that placed 2nd behind Boros in the last Premier event on Magic Online.

This deck is definitely powerful. Given the right draws it can beat anything. Leaving cards like Huntmaster of the Fells or Olivia Voldaren unanswered will make for a quick game. A good addition I have seen in these decks is adding Faithless Looting or Desperate Ravings and Sulfur Falls. Adding cards that dig through your deck help find what you need to survive and push ahead in a game of attrition. This is another must try for block, and a good addition to any gauntlet.

The banning of Lingering Souls and Intangible Virtue brought a quick halt to the token theme decks that were crushing all the Daily and Premier events on Magic Online. Recently there seems to be a resurgence of the powerhouse. The newest versions have added Garruk and Gavony Township with an easy splash using Evolving Wilds, Shimmering Grotto, and Woodland Cemetery. Let’s take a look at what makes this deck tick.

This deck at first glance is very much a token based theme. Some highlights of the deck are the seven planeswalkers and Bloodline Keeper. Like Jund, these are cards you don’t want to leave hanging around as they will take over a game. My only concern for the deck is that its current configuration losses a lot of steam to a single Curse of Death’s Hold. I think I would add a single Bramblecrush main, and perhaps one or two Urgent Exorcism in the board. Also, a cute card that’s worth trying is Parallel Lives. It speeds up the clock of almost every card in the deck. The power of this deck is highlighted in the land base; with not only good fixing, but the addition of Vault of the Archangel and Gavony Township make it hard to beat this deck past turn six or seven. If you’re someone who’s in to making a lot of dudes, give this list a whirl.

One list left to go; you didn’t think I would leave you without a Zombie list did you?

Zombies has become quite the deck in Standard, and its roots are stemmed in block. The pesky duo of Geralf’s Messenger and Gravecrawler are the big highlights. Let’s take a look at a list with recent success.

Zombies have begun to gain popularity in block as of recent, and there is no wonder why. It has speed comparable to Boros, but has resilience to removal in Gravecrawler, Geralf’s Messenger, and Ghoulraiser. Also, the spot removal in this deck is much stronger than in Boros which helps a lot when they are facing off. The only thing this deck lacks is the reach of Boros.

To give the deck that reach, help in the mirror, and keep the removal intact I personally enjoy Blazing Torch over Sever the Bloodline in the main. It does so much more than all of that too. Enabling your morbid for Skirsdag High Priest and Tragic Slip is a big deal, especially when you are using little to no mana to do just that. I have also seen a few versions add white for Sorin, Lord of Innistrad or green for Garruk Relentless. Whichever path you decide to take this deck, you’ll know it has the tools necessary to get the win.

With all that being said, there are currently 73 cards spoiled for Avacyn Restored. What scares me the most is the power level of some of these cards is off the charts in comparison to Innistrad and Dark Ascension. Let’s take a brief look of some of the cards I am referring to.

Avacyn, Angel of Hope – 8/8 Flying, Vigilance, everything you control is Indestructible. Now its cost of WWW5 is definitely correct, and the majority of block games don’t go that long unless it’s a control mirror. But I was thinking more along the lines of Unburial Rites Solar Flare-ish deck for this guy. As you can see above many decks are packing Sever the Bloodline, Liliana of the Veil, and Tribute to Hunger. This might be a good one or two of target for a deck such as Solar Flare.

Restoring Angel – 3/4 Flying, Flash, Blink a permanent when it enters the battlefield. I don’t know about you, but blinking Snapcaster Mage seems pretty good.

Tamiyo, the Moon Sage – Everything that’s been said about this guy is accurate. He is going to be very hard to manage, especially in block. Look out for this guy. I can see a turn four Dungeon Geists, in to a turn five Tamiyo making many a player want to flip tables.

Barter in Blood – This is a really awesome reprint, and exactly what is needed for the Black decks to survive the onslaught that is Boros. It should be an immediate addition to the Jund decks.

Griselbrand – 4BBBB 7/7 Flying, Lifelink, Pay 7 life: Draw 7 cards. This guy is just absurd. This will be a 4x in every type of Solar Flare decklist.

Tibalt, the Field-Blooded – Not quite sure what the application of this guy will be for block. It does give an option for someone to design a RDW. And speaking of RDW…..

Vexing Devil – I haven’t decided if this guy has a home in Boros, but would sure have one in RDW. I can see on turn four your opponent opting to take four damage to let him die, and then you casting Brimstone Volley for another five. Have a Curse of Bloodletting in play, and that’s nearly game right there.

Somberwald Sage – This guy gives hope for an effective ramp strategy, my only concern is the one toughness that makes him liable for every removal spell in the format. But untap with this guy and you have at least seven mana on turn four, and that’s something I know I don’t want to be staring down.

Sigarda, Host of Herons – 5/5, Flying, Hexproof, Prevents sacrificing. This card is a nightmare for control decks and very few cards actually kill it. Off the top of my head I can only think of Blasphemous Act, and Evil Twin to legend rule it. That’s it! This card is SCARY.

Cavern of Souls – Land fixing is good, especially if all we have to work with is the duals from Innistrad. Expect this card to be in a lot of aggressive style decks.

Slayers’ Stronghold – Giving Boros this card makes it that much harder to beat.

I can’t wait for the entire set to be spoiled so I can get to work on figuring out what to play. The hardest thing to overcome in block will be the land bases of decks, at this time there isn’t much to work with. But with so many powerful cards, there should be something for everyone.

John Cuvelier
Gosu. On MTGO
@jcuvelier on Twitter

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