A few short weeks ago I submitted my first piece here on Legit and while it didn’t drum up as much conversation as I hoped it would, it is still my goal to inspire as much discussion with my writing as possible. With that said, it is my intention to start a bi-weekly article series about my deck selection for the 2015 Vintage Championships being held in Philadelphia this year on August 22nd. My main focus is going to be playing mono artifact Mishra’s Workshop or UWr Monastery Mentor. Please refer to my past article found here for decklists.
A brief Aside
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the testing I am engaging in in these early stages is likely to be flawed by the Banned and Restricted announcement on July 13th. Yes I checked, the announcement falls on the Monday before the release of every set, so in this case Magic Origins releases on the 17th of July. I won’t get into the specifics but talk around the Vintage community is that Chalice of the Void, Gush, Dig Through Time and even Preordain may face some restriction so its possible that the meta and the very decks I’m testing will be obsolete.
Onwards and Upwards
Moving forward, I would like to go over a few sample hands and my rationale for keeping them or tossing them back. (Another note, my pimp of choice is non foil Japanese language cards so I apologize in advance) In the beginning, I will go by a card by card valuation and only make additional comments where applicable.
The above hand is what I will call a “snap keep.” It has a little bit of everything and some redundancy in the form of Lodestone Golem. But I will actually start with the manabase. Wasteland is going to be the most versatile card in the hand and here’s why. On the play I am unlikely to run it out because I want my opponents first land to be a nonbasic, or their first fetch to be a nonbasic. And on the draw it can help me punish my opponent for playing a first turn non basic.
Please allow me to jump around because in my evaluation my other primary concern is sequencing my spells to interact best with my opponent. So moving to Mox Pearl, it allows me to first turn Wasteland an opponent while not giving up the mana advantage and will not hinder any of my turn two lines. In addition to the fact that if depending on how much I want to commit, I have the option of starting the turn off with just land, mox and Thorn of Amethyst as my first “sphere.”
In that line, my land drop is likely to be Cavern of Souls on Golem but depending on my opponent’s deck and their turn one it could be safe to name Shapeshifter to turn on the Duplicant and future Phyrexian Metamorphs. So for obvious reasons, I value the Thorn highly because unless my opponent is opening on a creature I get to “Time Walk” his development.
Lodestone Golems function on a very similar level to the Thorn except those babies have legs. By themselves a single Golem is a 4 turn clock, one of those turns at least affected by his “sphere” clause that all non-artifact spells cost one more. So to be obvious, they only stay even or ahead of us is by playing their own moxen. A second copy in the hand lets us be freer with casting the fist but Cavern does cut down on the risk of us playing Golem on turn one.
Without segueing into the next segment I’ll point to Black Lotus as a card I have mixed feelings about. As my mana stands now, I could have as much as 5 on turn one but I always want to think in worst case scenarios. In the mirror, I could face a Phyrexian Revoker on my Mox and a Wasteland for my Cavern or Waste if I lead with it. Now I am forced to blow the Lotus to regain my foothold. But its largest strength is the fact that I could just cast a turn one uncounterable Lodestone. And more importantly in my mind, Black Lotus isn’t a stable source of Mana, its effect is very obviously not permanent so when I spend it, I need to maximize the use I get out if. Not so much as an afterthought but if I have a dead card in this hand its the Duplicant, it is my most purely reactive card and completely situational on a board state involving creatures.
Not to be repetitive but I will go over the lines of play I consider below. Like everything I write, I welcome you as an audience to question those decisions in hopes we can stimulate conversation and both get better.
Turn one on the play, I am going to be more conservative and lead with Mox Pearl, Cavern on Golem and Thorn. This is a test spell; I could have lead with Lotus, Cavern on Lodestone, Golem and been safe from counter magic, but I want the additional assurance that my Turn two is more likely to be unhindered. Also, there’s a very good chance my opponent forces the Thorn, loses a card and the ability to fight over a better threat in the future.
Two other considerations I want to discuss is the sequencing of my lands and whether or not I run the Lotus out. But I am choosing not to play the Lotus because without needing to wasteland my opponents land, I can play the Lotus through my Thorn and still cast and uncounterable Golem on turn two. Choosing to play Cavern over Wasteland was mentioned above and is unlikely to change on the Draw. Also, there are few situations, that would lead my play away from opening with Thorn outside of a known mono creature deck.
This hand is not as “snap keep-ish” as the above but one I would consider either way. The hand currently has no spheres and not too many plays. What it does have is one mana source in Mishra’s Factory and two Moxen, Mox Emerald and Ruby and Black Lotus. Steel Hellkite is the more fragile creature but one that needs an answer right away, he has evasion and can wipe out nonland permanents if he connects. However, Hellkite requires me to cast all 5 cards in my hand and if countered leaves Dismember and Kuldotha Forgemaster as leftovers.
Kuldotha Forgemaster is very good as well because it is another must answer threat to an opponent. If Forgemaster is not countered on the way down they will need to answer it on their turn or the tinker ability threatens any manner of problem. The downside to Forgemaster is similar to Hellkite in that your Lotus is required to cast him and without a sphere or Cavern to protect it, is naked to counters or removal, leaving your hand with Dismember and Hellkite. Also, while powerful, activating Forgemaster is even more of a liability because his activation alone will eat some number of an animated Factory, Moxen or the Forgemaster itself, leaving you with one mana source and the target or Forgemaster and the target.
To sum up this hand while nice does not offer you enough. In the dream situation you can lay out your hand, your opponent doesn’t counter the threat and can not answer it in 3 turns. In the worst situation, your opponent counters the threat leaving you with Factory attacks and Dismember or has a way to answer your tinker target.
The above photo was another opener I encountered and decided to keep, at the time it only consisted of two Chalice of the Void, the third and what turned out to be the fourth all appeared next. This hard was really hard to evaluate, it had two turn once lock pieces in a Chalice at zero, one or Trinisphere but not a whole lot else. Ultimately, the power of Chalice and Trinisphere proved too tempting. Depending on the line, I was almost guaranteed to resolve my first two Chalices and a hand of Cavern and Tolarian Academy meant when I drew a creature threat I was likely to cast it and get it to resolve. Dismember also served as removal at any point in the game.
Simple Deck, Simple Choices, right?
The above hand illustrates some of the choices you are forced to make and one I am not comfortable was the right choice. it may seem innocuous but what is the correct line of play? My gut instinct is to play a Chalice at zero and then try to resolvesTrinisphere off of Mishra’s Workshop. Alternatively, I could play a Chalice at zero and and a Chalice at one off of the same Workshop. I think it is less likely my Chalice at Zero gets countered so I believe that is my play no matter what, if it does get countered I have a backup. Overall, leading with the Chalice and Trinisphere feels like it utilizes your cards in the best way. The Chalice you can guarantee will restrict your opponent’s ability to accelerate through Moxen and if your opponent would counter a Chalice at one they are also likely to counter your Trinisphere. I personally feel the Trinisphere is the safest route because of its ability to protect a Chalice on one if you feel it is correct on the second turn. As an audience do you think I am overthinking the sequencing or do you feel there’s something I am missing?
In Game Example
Pictured above is a situation I found myself in testing the UWr Mentor matchup, I kept a hand of two Wastelands, Mox Emerald, Mox Jet, Lodestone Golem and Karn, Silver Golem on the draw. My opponent had played a basic mountain which signified to me he had either little lands in hand or was trying to play out a basic so it could not be wasted. I played out my moxen and Wasteland and deployed a Sphere of Resistance. I think this could have been my first mistake because on turn one I had the option of playing the Tangle Wire first, the reason I dislike this line is that it will hamper me more because my opponent can still respond by activating his to to ensure he is hitting his land drops.
On his turn two he activated top on his upkeep plays a Library of Alexandria and passes for the turn after another top activation. I untap, draw a Phyrexian Revoker and probably make mistake number two. I promptly waste the Library and deploy the Revoker. First, I want to consider the Wasteland, My opponent has 4 cards in hand and is digging, so I don’t have a fear of him being able to generate advantage off the library as a draw spell but I do as a mana source. The stronger against that play is the way this will hinder my own development. By losing a land, I am setting myself a turn away from playing the Tangle Wire and two turns away from the Lodestone. All provided I draw an additional source that taps for one mana.
What card to name with Revoker also bothered me because on one hand I want to stop mana development but on the other I need a way to stop his filtering because it will only dig him into spells and lands. If I name Sol Ring, he only has a basic mountain to use during his upkeep to filter until he hits, but if I name Sensei’s Divining Top he is stuck drawing only one card a turn, same as me. I named Sol Ring but now I feel that is just wrong, if he was not able to play spells with three mana earlier then it is not likely he is able to draw out of it before I can add some more pieces like the Lodestone or Karn as a way to speed the clock.
I hope what this illustrates is that a deck like Workshops or Dredge seems to get a lot of hate because it is just so “linear.” However, I find that little variations like the ones I described exist to make your decisions important. It could be that these are considered basic for the format and obvious plays but I am not an advanced expert and these have helped me better define the plays I hope to make in the future. If you found any of this interesting, annoying or just want to pick my brain, I am more than willing to respond in the comments below or through social media, I am @SpellBombFTW on Twitter and Justin Waller on Facebook. Thank you again for your time and see you next article.
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