|Which card would you most like to see Ben build a deck around in two weeks?|
|Jhoira of the Ghitu - The real Suspended Sentence!||2663||33.3%|
|Barren Glory - Look ma, no hands!||2456||30.7%|
|Pyromancer's Swath - Pure 100% Octane Burn!||1641||20.5%|
|Cloud Key - Combing you out since aught-seven!||1233||15.4%|
As you may have noticed in the sidebar, I've decided to make this build a Time Spiral Block Constructed deck. Why is this? Well, there are two good reasons:
1) We're in the middle of Block Constructed season on the Pro Tour Qualifiercircuit. There was no Ravnica Block Constructed season last year, so this is my first timely opportunity to delve into the Block Constructed format.
2) Block Constructed is both an easier and harder format to build in. It is easier, in that you have fewer cards you need to consider when building a deck. It is harder, because there are fewer cards that you can consider when building a deck. Yes, this is both a blessing and a curse!
In Standard, you have eight sets worth of bounce, countermagic and burn to fill in the holes for a Red/Blue deck. In Block, you only have three. You only have three sets worth of mana fixing, kill conditions, and pieces of your combos. In Standard, it is easy to just throw in the good ol' staples (Mana Leak/Shock/Volcanic Hammer anyone?). In Block, you really have to find ways to improvise - or throw out everything you know and start from scratch!
Since this deck is being built around Jhoira of the Ghitu, we should take a look at Jhoira herself.
Jhoira has one use-suspending nonland cards. For most cards, this is a disadvantage-who wants to suspend a spell for four turns when they can just cast it straight-out early? It costs two mana to suspend with Jhoira, so there's an investment of time and mana. This means that there are three main uses for Jhoira:
1) Big Mana Spells: What's the difference between Shock and Searing Wind? Eight mana… and 8 damage. It's extremely difficult to get up to nine mana in a Constructed game of Magic, unless you're building your deck around mana acceleration. Jhoira allows you to circumvent unwieldy (some would say impossible) mana costs to cheat out spells early.
2) Suspend on the Sly: Some cards have a suspend countdown of more than four to begin with-Greater Gargadon immediately springs to mind. Jhoira allows you to suspend a Gargadon for four turns rather than ten, which is a huge advantage. That's six turns (or permanents) that you can shave off the cost of a Gargadon.
3) Coordinate Storm: Since all spells suspended with Jhoira gain four time counters, you can suspend multiple spells on the same turn, and then have one large storm spell. This is a little less stable than the other spells, because generally waiting four (or three) turns for multiple storm spells to resolve is a bit slow, and you're better off going for mana acceleration and low-cost spells for the Storm route.
Sometimes it is best to start out with the most basic build of a deck you can think of, to see the strengths and weaknesses of the deck. From there, you can take out pieces and add in pieces to strengthen the deck-but if it is not viable in its most primal form, how can you continue to work with the deck? So, for my Jhoira build, I decided to go with a one-for-one relationship: Jhoira and Greater Gargadon.
Which other cards would work well with a deck built around a creature that can suspend other cards? Well, cards that help you cheat the suspend time, of course! Red and blue are chock full of these-Clockspinning, Fury Charm, and Jhoira's Timebug to name a few. The card I settled on for this role was Rift Elemental. It comes down on the first turn, it has a symbiotic relationship with suspend cards (it benefits with +2/+0 and it benefits the suspend card by removing counters), and it is a major offensive threat if left unchecked.
In: 4 Rift Elemental
What are the major strengths of blue and red? Countermagic, bounce, and card drawing are the hallmarks of blue, and burn, land destruction and mana acceleration are the hallmarks of red. Accordingly, I wanted to add a few staples from these colors to the deck. This brought in Cancel and Delay (two of the few Counterspells in Time Spiral block), Rift Bolt (a very solid burn spell, and one we've seen in many red decks in Building on a Budget), Think Twice (a good use for mana on turn two for a deck that didn't end up with many two-drops), and Foresee (an archetypical blue card-drawing spell). I also added in Simian Spirit Guide, so I could potentially play a Rift Elemental on turn one while simultaneously suspending a Greater Gargadon, or so that I could power out Jhoira on the second turn.
The last cards I added were cards for the mana base. The deck was split pretty evenly between blue and red, so I decided to add in an equal amount of Islands and Mountains. I wanted some permanent mana acceleration, so I chose four Prismatic Lens for the deck. This is another two-drop for the deck. This slot might have been better served by Coalition Relic, except that Coalition Relic has jumped into the 6-8 ticket range over the past week on Magic Online, making it far from a budget card!
Let's see how the deck did!
Game 1: Stepnrazor (G/R Suspend)
He gets stuck at double Forest, but suspends a Durkwood Baloth on the first turn. I answer by suspending double Greater Gargado and plopping Rift Elemental to the table on turn three. This allows me to run him down quickly with Rift Elemental. I Cancel his Baloth and then sacrifice most of my lands to drop a Gargadon and win.
Game 2: Magic Tour (U/G Suspend/Saprolings)
I suspend a turn-one Gargadon and play Jhoira on turn three. He tries to play Sporoloth Ancient, and I Delay it, then drop Rift Elemental on my fifth turn, along with suspending a second Gargadon using Jhoira (so it only has four counters). On my next turn, I remove three counters from the various Gargadons, sacrifice all of my lands and my Rift Elemental to bring both Gargadons into play, and then swing in for 20 damage with the two 9/7 guys and my Jhoira.
Game 3: Digital Logic (U/G Morph)
I get shorted on mana, and he has lands, card-drawing spells, and morph creatures. It gets to the point where he can both drop more creatures and counter my countermagic on the same turn. He ends up winning through card and mana superiority.
Game 4: _angeleyes_ (B/R Mid-range)
He gets an early Skirk Ridge Exhumer and Nether Traitor. I wait for him to make a Festering Goblin token, and then kill that token with a Rift Bolt. Since the -1/-1 isn't optional, this makes him kill his own Nether Traitor. This buys me enough time to get down a Greater Gargadon via a Rift Elemental, and he is unable to keep up with my 9/7 guy, especially after I Cancel a Damnation.
Game 5: Nekkidcarpenter (U/G Walk the Aeons/Gaea's Blessing)
I suspend an early Gargadon, and then drop Jhoira and suspend Foresee. He takes 4 extra turns with Walk the Aeons, but I let those through my countermagic. I counter a key Mirari so he can't take multiple turns off of one spell, and get a Rift Elemental to speed up the Gargadon. On the next-to-last turn, he brings back Mirari with Academy Ruins, plays it, and then tries to drop a Riftwing Cloudscate. I Delay that, untap, and draw a second Gargadon. Jhoira suspends that Gargadon, I use Rift Elemental to remove three counters, sacrifice enough lands to bring both Gargadons into play, and swing for 27 damage in one turn (a 7/1 Rift Elemental, two 9/7 Gargadons, and Jhoira).
So far, the deck is working out great, but I need more win conditions. Simian Spirit Guide has literally done nothing ever time I've drawn it, so it's an easy cut. The Gargadon route has been a great path to victory so far, so I want more cards along those lines. Deep-Sea Kraken is another giant monster with suspend, so it seems like a natural addition to the deck.
I also want a couple of more lands in the deck, just to be safe. I cut the four Spirit Guides, a Think Twice, and a Foresee for two lands, and four Krakens. One of the great things about the Krakens and Gargadons is that neither of them are dead draws in the early game-they can be suspended! Normally, a nine- or ten-drop could gum up your hand, but with suspend, I can always get them going either on the first or third turn.
Game 6: Ckech907 (U/B Control)
I suspend triple Gargadon and a Deep-Sea Kraken. We go back and forth, with him stopping my Kraken twice (once via Snapback, and once with Tendrils of Corruption). I sacrifice it to a Gargadon. We go through a back-and-forth, with him trying to drop Teferi. I Cancel it; he answers with Pact of Negation. I let the Pact resolve, and then re-Cancel Teferi. Eventually I get down double Gargadon in one turn with Delay backup, suspend a Rift Bolt, and kill him.
Game 7: Lowpressure68 (Mono-Green Aggro)
He suspends Durkwood Baloth and drops Primal Forcemage. I suspend double Deep-Sea Kraken and drop Rift Elemental. I counter a his Nacatl War-Pride, suspend Greater Gargadon, remove three counters with Rift Elemental, unsuspend Deep-Sea Kraken and Greater Gargadon, and hit him for 22 in one turn.
Game 8: Pantsy (Jhoira Mirror)
I get stuck on two lands, and he lands a third-turn Jhoira. Next thing I know, I'm facing down a suspended Aeon Chronicler and eating Tarox Bladewing with grandeur.
Game 9: Megabiquette (Mono-Blue Morph)
I get Jhoira, and it dies to Shaper Parasite. I drop another, and suspend double Deep-Sea Kraken with my favorite lady. He drops another morph, and then I counter a third and suspend Rift Bolt. Both of my Krakens come down, and I Bolt his untapped morph-he flips it as a Fathom Seer. I suspend Gargadon with Jhoira, sacrifice four lands, and hit him for 23 in one turn (12 from Krakens, 9 from the Gargadon, and 2 from Jhoira).
Game 10: Satellite099 (B/G Saprolings)
I get an early Deep-Sea Kraken, but I can't deal with double Deathspore Thallid, one with Fallen Ideal and Verdant Embrace. He's able to kill off my Jhoira, and put out enough offense that I can't outpace him even with a 6/6 unblockable creature.
So far so good, but the deck is lacking a little something. I'm capable of some really explosive finishes, but I have some definitely weaknesses. For one, Teferi completely hoses this deck, and I don't have a good way to kill him. If he's in play, I can't resolve any of my suspended cards during my upkeep, meaning all my ways of winning are useless. For two, definitely had problems with that weenie rush from the Saprolings, so I need a way to clear out creatures en masse.
After I finished playtesting for this article, and before I got to make the next round of change for this deck, I received the following e-mail:
I'm the guy who played you in the Jhoira mirror match tonight, and I thought I would mention something I found very effective in my build. If you don't have any copies, you might consider adding Riddle of Lightning. If you're running 4 copies of Deep-Sea Kraken and Greater Gargadon, that's 10 to the dome if you hit off it. I've found it to be a great finisher combined with Foresee and Mystic Speculation to set up the draw. Just my 2 cents :).
Next week: Jhoira goes big! Jhoira Vanguard goes bigger!
Two weeks from now: The results of the B/G/W dredge contest!