Back-to-Back Awesome Sauce

Posted in Top Decks on November 11, 2010

By Mike Flores

Another week, another Star City Open event ... Another Dan Jordan win?

Daniel Jordan took his signature Blue-Red-Green deck all the way to the finals and through the finals; this is what he played:

Dan Jordan's Blue-Red-Green Control

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The main difference between this deck and the previous winning list was Jordan's moving three Goblin Ruinblasters to the main—over Avenger of Zendikar, Deprive, and Volition Reins. Goblin Ruinblaster is a much-storied threat that can hit the 'field on turn three via Lotus Cobra or Explore—rather than a card like Avenger of Zendikar, which is only great when you have already gotten Oracle of Mul Daya online.

Almost eight different decks!

Michael Farrell's Kuldotha Red

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Matt Mullholland's Kuldotha Red

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This is a fast aggro deck. The cheap artifacts—especially Panic Spellbomb—can facilitate a quick Kuldotha Rebirth; this card hooks arms together with Goblin Bushwhacker or Goblin Chieftain brilliantly. See also Round 7, below.

    Blue-Black Mimic Vat

Josh Herr's Blue-Black Mimic Vat

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This is a new take on Blue-Black Control, largely credited to superstar deck designer / Grand Prix winner Gerry Thompson.

The hot new tech is Mimic Vat. You have lots of Doom Blades to kill their stuff (maybe a Primeval Titan if you are super lucky), and Mimic Vat can spit it out turn after turn. The creatures in this deck are obviously quite strong; though you will see Frost Titan more often than (just) Grave Titan. Abyssal Persecutor is mitigated by the "Unsummon" ability on Jace, the Mind Sculptor, of course.

See also Round 8, below.


Sean McKeown's Elves

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Well-known Magic writer Sean McKeown made Top 8 with Elves!

This version has all four copies of Eldrazi Monument, rather than the three we often see. Curiously, the rest of the deck is nothing but creatures (no Genesis Wave, Overrun, or planeswalkers).

Unique take—one Swamp (hooks up with Sylvan Ranger) for quite a few sideboard cards.

    Blue-Green Vengevine

Laurence Swasey's Blue-Green Vengevine

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Wow! A totally different deck than anything we have looked at in this column, to date.

Fauna Shaman is obviously the facilitator. One route to dominating card advantage is to go the Vengevine route, of course, but the deck has a lot of good creatures (Acidic Slime, Avenger of Zendikar, Obstinate Baloth), and can play a progressive card advantage game.

    White-Blue Control

Kurt Spiess's White-Blue Control

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Main deck Luminarch Ascension is quite powerful against other control decks.


Caleb Durward's Vampires

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The new build of Vampires seems to be hyper-aggressive. Pulse Tracker is the deck's "Jackal Pup" on the opponent, and Blade of the Bloodchief also makes its "Top 8-quality decks" debut. Creature kill slot du jour is Vendetta, which gets the nod over Doom Blade presumably on mana.

Conspicuous by its absence: No Mind Sludge.

See also Round 3, below.

Impressed by Jordan's back-to-back wins, I decided to try my own hand at Blue-Red-Green Control. Plus, all kinds of scuttlebutt on Twitter about it being the best deck, and so forth, really had my interest piqued.

I played about eight rounds of two-man queues on Magic Online, all running the more recent, three-Goblin Ruinblaster build.

Honestly this deck seemed a bit unfocused. So the first round of this trial was a bit of a freebie.

Game 1 my opponent showed me Llanowar Elves, Blight Mamba, and Cystbearer. I drew Lightning Bolts for each of those.

He or she cast Kiln Fiend and I answered with Frost Titan. My opponent cast another Kiln Fiend and managed to resolve Assault Strobe, a la GerryT.dec, but my combination of Frost Titan and Jace, the Mind Sculptor more than handled it.

For the second game I sideboarded like this:

-4 Mana Leak
-3 Goblin Ruinblaster
-3 Oracle of Mul Daya
+4 Pyroclasm
+3 Obstinate Baloth
+2 Flashfreeze
+1 Ratchet Bomb

Against decks where you have a huge advantage in quality, values of individual cards change as you try to figure out how the opponent can win. For example, Oracle of Mul Daya is a tremendous threat against control, and can set up a tremendous combination via Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Halimar Depths. However against an aggressive Red-Green deck, it is mostly a 2/2 creature for four mana that you never want to draw. It can't block Cystbearer and will probably die to any and every thing they can present. I am full-on "medium" about Mana Leak in these situations; I am fine with it. It is fine. It can counter. It can get cut ... With different sideboard options you can just cut two, or whatever. In this case I wanted to focus on casting better stuff on my own turn (Obstinate Baloth, Pyroclasm, most of my main deck cards), so I was less apt to leave mana open.

But when I did, Flashfreeze seemed like an objectively better choice; after all it can counter most of the spells in both colors. Bringing in Pyroclasm was another reason I cut Oracle of Mul Daya. I am fine with trading Lotus Cobra with Kiln Fiend if my opponent will let me ... but I don't really want 100 things hanging out with their 1-2 toughness on the battlefield when I am setting up Pyroclasm.

The deciding second game went just about how you might expect.

I have heard a bit about this strategy making a comeback, even in the absence of Ranger of Eos (the former Goblin Bushwhacker enabler). This version ran on a heavy Equipment sub-theme facilitated by Stoneforge Mystic.

The first game I lost to double Stoneforge Mystic. I traded very profitably early, buying a nice amount of time, but flooded out over the last 2-3 turns despite having Oracle of Mul Daya. The greater tragedy is that I set up Oracle of Mul Daya + Halimar Depths for presumably a game-breaking Frost Titan, but the only land in my top three cards was a Copperline Gorge. Meaning that I would have to wait a full turn for my Frost Titan. My opponent got in a little damage, and it was enough considering my later paucity of action spells. My opponent's Stoneforge Mystics got Adventuring Gear and all of a sudden everyone had Plated Geopede superpowers.

I sided similar to the previous match.

-2 Mana Leak
-3 Goblin Ruinblaster
-3 Oracle of Mul Daya
+4 Pyroclasm
+3 Obstinate Baloth
+1 Ratchet Bomb

Obviously this time I didn't want Flashfreeze ... It only counters half of my opponent's spells, and I am usually trying to recover from a fast draw and don't necessarily have the luxury of a lot of untapped land.

The second game I got completely blown out by 100 sac lands. Everything from Arid Mesa to Marsh Flats to even Evolving Wilds got me. I had the removal but the large number of sac lands helped him or her to keep Steppe Lynxes and Plated Geopedes alive. I also stalled on lands a bit, but the fact is my opponent beat me with just a few spells—thanks to his or her highly synergistic mana base.

My opponent looked to be playing a highly aggressive Vampires deck list similar to what we saw from Caleb Durward—Pulse Trackers, Blade of the Bloodchief, and so on.

In the first game I got completely blown out by Pulse Trackers. My opponent hit them on the first two turns and just slapped me around like they were Jackal Pups. Bloodthrone Vampire to follow up.

I sideboarded exactly as I did against the Boros deck the previous round:

-2 Mana Leak
-3 Goblin Ruinblaster
-3 Oracle of Mul Daya
+4 Pyroclasm
+3 Obstinate Baloth
+1 Ratchet Bomb

Goblin Ruinblaster is minimally effective against all of my opponent's basic Swamps. Obstinate Baloth should be better than ever! Or at least that was what I thought. I see now that the Durward / Pulse Tracker list doesn't have Mind Sludge.

But if he or she did have Sludge I would have shown double Baloths and that would have been awesome!

The second game I just drew a bunch of sideboard cards and swept the opponent multiple times.

The third game was the most interesting. Basically I let my opponent get a 14/13 Bloodghast with two copies of Blade of the Bloodchief. However that creature can't block and I got my opponent quite low. The question was whether I could afford to activate my Raging Ravine. I had a Mana Leak, but if his or her one card were Doom Blade... I would be dead in two swings. I decided to chump with Obstinate Baloth and then skillfully top deck Frost Titan to keep his or her good man down!

It looked very much like a "same 75" situation this match.

I tested the mirror a bit before this eight tournament set with my friend KYT and the mirror seems very draw-dependant. Winning the die roll is always a big deal, but it seems particularly important in the mirror because it can greatly shape who goes first in Game 3, giving the player who wins two games where Goblin Ruinblaster is good, which seems like a distinct advantage.

That said, I probably deserved to lose for what I did Game 1.

I kept:

Frost Titan
Frost Titan
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Mana Leak
Scalding Tarn

I shipped the first two cards on my deck and found a second Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

I never really got any lands and just waited around long enough to confirm it was a mirror before conceding.

For the second game I kind of went with the metagame flow and sided one Frost Titan for one Goblin Ruinblaster.

I kept:

Lotus Cobra
Lotus Cobra
Goblin Ruinblaster
Misty Rainforest

This hand proved very explosive and got there.

For the third game, knowing I was going second, I sided out all my Goblin Ruinblasters. My experience with the Blue-Red-Green mirror is minimal, but I recalled from last year that Goblin Ruinblaster was not really aces on the draw (versus Jund).

Especially if the opponent were going first—and would have first crack at cards like Explore—it seemed like Spell Pierce would be good.

I sided out my four Ruinblasters for a mix of Spell Pierces and the Frost Titan.

The third was really just my opponent drawing more Lightning Bolts and more Frost Titans. I got a bunch of Jace, the Mind Sculptor action, but he or she was able to use Goblin Ruinblaster as a haste attacker when I had used the -1 ability on Jace to manage some mana acceleration.

I can theoretically get back into it as I have a Frost Titan in hand and a Frost Titan on top but he or she went first and just cast back-to-back Titans with a mana advantage.

Oh well ...

I should have paid more attention to that Nick Spagnolo article I linked to last week RE: how to cast Preordain.

In case you don't know it this deck has tons of mana acceleration (Lotus Cobra headlining) with the goal of firing off a Genesis Wave for Ob Nixilis, the Fallen + a bunch of lands. Theoretically it can kill you from nowhere with a large enough resolved Genesis Wave.

In the first game my opponent hit Lotus Cobra quickly and fired off a Genesis Wave for x = 5.

My opponent hit four of five cards ... a second Lotus Cobra, two Overgrown Battlements, and a land. He or she cast a third Lotus Cobra from hand and passed. At this point I just had to keep him or her off of another Genesis Wave with my Jace, the Mind Sculptor and everything would be all right. I got two, then three, Frost Titans and that was that.

I once again sided out the Goblin Ruinblasters—this time for two copies of Flashfreeze (Genesis Wave) and one Volition Reins (Ob Nixilis, the Fallen).

The game was pretty ho-hum. My opponent doesn't have direct damage aside from a huge, resolved, Genesis Wave. I have Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

I had to bounce Ob Nixilis once or twice to manage the battlefield, but as long as I could keep my opponent off of Genesis Wave, no problem.

My hand was pretty wired for a non-interactive Ramp match-up. I had two Explore and hit consecutive Frost Titans ahead of the curve.

He or she had a Joraga Treespeaker; I had a Lightning Bolt. My opponent was forced to cast Summoning Trap pre-combat; therefore Frost Titan tapped it down.

For the second game I sided in Flashfreeze ... but for once I kept in Goblin Ruinblaster! In fact, I sided in the fourth Ruinblaster, too:

+2 Flashfreeze
+1 Spell Pierce
+1 Goblin Ruinblaster
-4 Lightning Bolt

Bolt is awesome against Joraga Treespeaker, but that opportunity isn't always there.

The second game was actually really exciting. My opponent resolved an Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre (for Jace, the Mind Sculptor). The opponent had annihilator triggers, but I had just enough mana to lock Ulamog down with Frost Titan.

The Ulamog occurred because I had the choice to cash in my Mana Leak on a hard cast Summoning Trap (which I did) or spend my Flashfreeze. So obviously the colorless threat to my face left me staring at Flashfreeze.

But thanks to Frosty ... won anyway!

I was initially frightened of this match up, despite the fact that I knew Jordan beat it in the finals to win the SCG Open two weeks ago, just because it is so aggressive and fast.

My opponent had a first-turn Goblin Guide but I had correctly laid out my second turn with Halimar Depths and got myself a free land, top decked a Lightning Bolt, and then lapped up another free land on his or her second turn.

The free land I got was a Copperline Gorge, which prevented me from taking a second Guide strike to the jaw.

I went Lotus Cobra + Jace, the Mind Sculptor all in one turn. My opponent killed the Jace, preventing me from blocking with a Panic Spellbomb. So I utilized my not-dead Lotus Cobra to make a Frost Titan.

At this point I was up around 15 life.

This is how I sideboarded for the second game:

-1 Mana Leak
-3 Oracle of Mul Daya
-3 Goblin Ruinblaster
+2 Flashfreeze
+4 Pyroclasm
+1 Ratchet Bomb

My opponent opened up the second game with Chimeric Mass-into-Kuldotha Rebirth, but I had a Pyroclasm to mitigate both those tokens and a second turn attacker.

I actually made an error with my Preordain that is kind of obvious, but also very easy to make. I saw a Raging Ravine and a second Preordain; obviously I wanted to keep both cards, and with my next draw I would have both cards. The right play is to put the Raging Ravine on top and keep the Preordain; not thinking about it—remember I "should" get both by the next draw—I kept the Raging Ravine and put the Preordain on top.

See where this is going?

My opponent cast Goblin Guide and I missed a free card.

But like I said, I had the Pyroclasm on turn two, which was awesome. I cast Jace, the Mind Sculptor, drew three cards, and set up the second green mana for Obstinate Baloth.

So for the last match of the evening I got to play against the other big, respectable, blue deck in the format, Blue-Black Control.

I figured either deck could win, but that Blue-Red-Green would have the advantage because Oracle of Mul Daya is kind of like a second Jace. Both decks have Frost Titans to finish but one deck has a much spicier route to the end game.

The first one kind of got away from me. I had multiple active Frost Titans and an active Jace, the Mind Sculptor but managed to lose to opposing Titans. My opponent drew multiple Doom Blades for my Titans, and had cast an early Mimic Vat. The Vat quickly had a Frost Titan underneath it (my opponent's, actually ... I pointed two Lightning Bolts in its direction), and I had to use my Titan(s) to keep the Vat down. Despite my Jace, my opponent out-drew me and took the first.

Both the second and third games went similar directions. I had Lotus Cobra and/or Explore and had much more explosive starts than my opponent did, or could. He or she had Disfigure and Doom Blade both games, but I had enough of a lead to hit Jace and Mana Leak ... eventually locking down with Frost Titan.

So that was a great run!

6-2 isn't quite perfect (and in a Pro Tour Qualifier I'd probably be a match out of Top 8), but I felt both of the losses were winnable. The Boros was the 0-2 stomp, but like I said, there were lots of sac lands, and I probably could have done something differently (killed the first Steppe Lynx on my turn, say); and the Blue-Red-Green mirror match? Well, for one thing, at least a Blue-Red-Green deck won that one (not really tarnishing this deck's win percentage). But I probably could have won the first one if I didn't keep that one-land hand.

All in all, this deck has some of the highest card quality in Standard, and a mana base that genuinely adores you.

The one thing I found interesting—and maybe this doesn't matter, it's not like eight matches is some kind of super high n—I sided out Goblin Ruinblaster a huge amount of the time. I know the defining feature of this build is the main deck addition of the Ruinblasters ... but it might be the case that being flexible on their inclusion (or maybe exclusion) is the way to go.

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