Winning or doing well at a tournament starts way before the first round. Knowing what deck to play and knowing how to play it well will give you a lot of edge. Picking a deck is very difficult though. People are full of biases towards what they like and don’t like. People get distorted perceptions of how certain matchups are based off what they’ve seen or think a deck is great because it had a lucky run through an event. I’m going to walk you through my experience selecting a deck for this weekend in the hopes that it will help you find the best deck for you…if it doesn’t, feel free to just copy my deck because it was pretty great.
This Sunday was the culmination of a sweet tournament series at Squabbles Trading Cards. After giving out other 8 pieces of power it was time to give away a Black Lotus. I haven’t been able to make it to nearly as many of these events as I wanted to, but I was pretty hype for this one. In the three events I was able to make it to I finished in the money for two of them, punting in the semifinals of one, and was hoping to improve on those performances with a win. I was pretty excited for this one. Who doesn’t like playing for high stakes? I was however very frustrated with my usual RW painter deck. I still very much enjoy the deck and think it’s capable of holding its own but it has a hard time dealing with random decks that pop up and lately it has seemed like I can’t get paired against “normal” decks like Miracles or Shardless. Knowing I wanted to play something else I started considering my options.
When one is trying not to lose to the random decks of the format, there are two ways to go about it. The first of these is to embrace the chaos and go with a Chalice of the Void deck. Chalice being such a catch all card will lock a lot of people out regardless of if their specific deck was on your radar. Chalice decks tend to have an issue with inconsistency though. The decks tend to be filled with powerful effects to lock their opponents out but with the lack of filtering in the deck, it’s very easy to draw the wrong effects and lose. This problem is not as pronounced in the Eldrazi deck, which is the most powerful Chalice deck. Since the deck is so full of powerful, often uncounterable, monsters it often doesn’t matter what specific cards you draw. The deck is a solid choice and looks fun but people should be coming to events prepared for it. While I know the deck is objectively powerful, it struggles too much to beat certain cards that people board in against it and that’s not where I wanted to be.
The other way to beat the random stuff is the way more common strategy of playing Brainstorm and Force of Will. There’s not much to say on these cards. Brainstorm is just very good. It’s a pretty lackluster cantrip on its own, but once it’s supplemented by a fetchland or other shuffle ability it becomes an amazing card. Force of Will is pretty bad because it’s either card disadvantage or super over costed depending on how it was cast. It is however really good at making sure you can answer things and that’s all one is usually looking for. Realizing that you want to play blue is a good first step. Now the question becomes what kind of blue deck are you in the market for, combo, control, tempo, or midrange. Aggro decks don’t really exist in blue. If you know of a blue aggro deck, please comment below so I can try it out.
There used to be what seemed like a constant debate on whether one should play what they know or play what’s best. I fall somewhere in the middle. Personally, I feel it is important to play something you think is well positioned but also something that resonates with you. For that reason, I immediately removed midrange decks as a consideration. That particular style of play has just never been my strong suit.
The premier control deck in the format is without a doubt Miracles, a wonderful choice for most events. I have a lot of fun playing both with and against this deck, though I have never taken it to an event. Miracles is considered by many to be a difficult deck to play and that can be daunting to want to pick up for a high stakes tournament. Expecting the meta to be full of Eldrazi, Lands, and Miracles, and different flavors of Delver like it had been in the past I was not super high on the thought of taking this deck. It can struggle pretty badly against the Eldrazi menace at times. The lands matchup I believe to be in Miracles’ favor but only slightly with a lot of nuance that I didn’t want to screw up being relatively unpracticed with the deck. Lastly playing the mirror against people who had been playing Miracles for months seemed like not where I wanted to be. I had recently been playing UR standstill for a bit of fun. I felt pretty confident I could beat Miracles and Delver Strategies with that deck but the games I had played against Eldrazi were not close. I figured that could be fixed with some pretty easy changes, that would also help the Grixis matchup, but the deck still seemed like it would be pretty cold to Lands. Despite the sheer amount of fun, I had been having with the deck I decided it was also not a good idea. The last control deck I considered is an Esper Mentor deck I had been working on featuring the countertop lock. I’ll post the list at the end for anyone curious. This deck has actually felt very good. In testing I felt favored against both Lands and Miracles, and the one time I got to play against Eldrazi I lost a very close three but feel it was largely pilot error. Counterbalance really insulates you from the randomness that I feared too. This deck actually seemed like a pretty good choice but frankly I was a little scared to play it. I had taken it to one other event and while the deck felt like it could win most matches it was also very easy to make a small mistake and lose off of it. It’s a deck I can easily see taking down a tournament but it doesn’t come with any free wins and really requires sharp play all day.
Now that I knew I wasn’t going to play control it was time to look at combo. Most people would say storm is the best combo deck in the format so that seems like an easy choice. Storm doesn’t meet the criteria I set of having Force of Will though, unless playing the High Tide versions but those are generally considered weaker, although a lot cooler in my opinion. The other issue with plying storm variants right now is they’re weak to all the Chalices and Spheres that Eldrazi decks are packing. If I were to recommend a regularly played combo deck, I would suggest the Omni-Sneak deck. Being a mix of two decks gives the deck a range of ways to attack and while defending against one it is possible for the opponent to lose another. It’s also just a very powerful deck that will offer lots of free wins with turn one and two Emrakuls or Griselbrands while still being able to survive the late game. I’m also a big fan of the fact the deck can sideboard in Young Pyromancer to get people who overloaded on combo hate and can’t deal with an army of 1/1s. Reanimator is another combo deck that I’m partial too. I would personally play it before Omni-Sneak because it’s a bit faster and I enjoy the creature suite a bit more. The big issue with Reanimator for this event was that if people are coming prepared for Land strategies there would be a lot of graveyard hate making this strategy much worse. The combo deck I ended up trying out for this event was an old deck that doesn’t see much play anymore, UR Painted Stone. The deck is a combo deck featuring the Painter’s Servant / Grindstone kill that I am so familiar with but most importantly uses four copies of my favorite creature, Goblin Welder. That guy is an all-star. Getting this creature out on the first turn of the game is really powerful against most decks as they have to answer him before they can really answer whatever threats you’re presenting. I’ve played the deck before to the top 8 of an IQ and playing it again, it felt like everything I wanted to be doing. The hands all felt great. It felt like I was really dictating the pace of every game I played with most cards feeling like threats. Testing against friends I was winning the vast majority of games. Eventually I started to lose but it didn’t discourage me. I just took the opportunity to learn from my losses, something many players need to get better at. The deck still felt great. I watched videos of others playing the deck online. I recommend doing this for any deck you’re interested in so you can see lines you might not otherwise consider. There are things that can be learned from most games, win or lose.
Now that I was pretty set on a deck I had to figure out the sideboard. I tried a new process this time that I believe I will use a lot going forward. I went online to check out metagame shares. I wrote down a list of all the popular decks as well as a few I just expected to see. Next to all of them I noted what cards were weak in that matchup and I’d be willing to cut. Once I did that for ten or so decks. I then wrote down next to them what cards I would like to have. At first I had Spellskites on the list to protect my combo but I cut them. I wanted to make sure the cards I was bringing in also felt powerful and not to dilute too much what my deck was trying to do. Many people make the mistake of over sideboarding and end up losing to the fact their deck no longer does enough. I was not going to give any matches up like that and advise you to do the same. Once I made the list I played more games. This helped me make a very important change in my board. I cut Ingot Chewers which were hard to find with a chalice out for Ancient Grudges. Ancient Grudge was huge as if I only needed one of the effects I could Intuition for it and always have it. I never struggled to find it. Trying to find new technology for a deck is something that not enough people do. There is obviously nothing wrong with copying a list but don’t forget to update it to suit what you think you’ll need. Make sure, you fully understand the changes you are making though, do not cut a card without fully understanding why it’s there. I used all my sideboard slots during the course of the day other than Tormod’s Crypts, which I do not regret having and honestly it felt great. This was the first time I felt like the sideboard was truly just an extension of my deck.
Despite how much I clicked with Painted Stone, I did try out what I thought would be a tempo deck in the form of Bant. The deck was fun but didn’t do it for me. It was much more of a midrange deck than I had realized. The mana seemed a bit wonky and while it felt strong it didn’t feel powerful enough. It’s probably a good deck that I just need to get more used to but it didn’t feel right so I put it on the backburner. If I were to have registered a tempo deck it would have been Jeskai Delver. I know Grixis and 4 color are considered the premier delver decks right now but Jeskai has always been one of my favorites. It feels favored against most creature decks due to its ability to play so much removal in the form of Swords to Plowshares and Lightning Bolt as well as having Jitte. Stoneforge Mystic is also good against Eldrazi decks. I do not like the Miracles matchup with the deck but that can likely be worked out in the sideboard. I do not have an exact 75 that I would play for that deck right now but I might pick it back up soon and work one out. For now, good luck with whatever deck you may choose to play. I’m always open to discuss ideas if you hit me up on Facebook or in the comments below.
Trackback from your site.