Putting Stock in Block

Posted in Top Decks on July 11, 2013

By Jacob Van Lunen

Jacob Van Lunen began playing Magic in 1995. He has participated in organized play at every level of competition and was a member of the winning team at Pro Tour San Diego in 2007, thanks to an innovative draft strategy. As a writer, Van Lunen has had more than three hundred Magic strategy pieces published

Welcome back to Perilous Research, DailyMTG.com's exclusive Magic Online column. This week, I'd like to take a look at Return to Ravnica Block Constructed. I've been receiving a lot of emails from players looking to get involved in Constructed on Magic Online. Most newcomers have concerns about huge swaths of their newly purchased deck rotating when Theros comes out in a few months. Don't fret! Getting involved in Return to Ravnica Block Constructed on Magic Online ensures that your collection's relevance will be maintained after rotation and the practice you get will actively set you up for success in Standard this coming Autumn.

Around this time last year, Jund decks were dominating Innistrad Block Constructed tournaments on Magic Online. Since then, Jund is really the only archetype in all of Standard (one could make an argument for Mono-Red) that has maintained a healthy competitive footing in the format. Historically, the most successful Block Constructed decks from the prior season are well-poised for the following Standard season.

Today, I'd like to take a look at the big dogs of Return to Ravnica Block Constructed. This is one of the healthiest Block formats in a very long time. Usually by this point in time, there are only one or two truly competitive decks in a Block format, but Return to Ravnica offers up a healthy format with multiple poles pulling and pushing the format constantly.


Aggressive decks have enjoyed great success in the current Block format. Initially, many believed Selesnya would be the only aggressive strategy worth its salt. The other aggressive strategies would have to battle through Centaur Healer and Trostani, Selesnya's Voice. However, the Selesnya decks ended up being very weak to Grixis and Esper control strategies while other aggressive strategies, like Mono-Red and Golgari, punished the control decks. The subsequent format shake out resulted in a very healthy format. Let's take a look at the aggressive decks of Return to Ravnica Block Constructed.

DaKriket's Selesnya

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In my opinion, the Selesnya deck has the most raw power of any deck in the format. Cards like Voice of Resurgence and Advent of the Wurm are absurdly powerful; in fact, only Sphinx's Revelation even comes close to challenging these cards in terms of pure power level. The deck gets aggressive starts with Experiment One, Call of the Conclave, Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage, and Voice of Resurgence. From there, the deck starts laying it on thick with heavy hitters like Trostani, Selesnya's Voice, a card that dominates creature mirrors and forces control players to have a removal spell or board sweeper that's up to the task of taking down a 2/5. The newest versions of the deck are built to be as aggressive as possible in Game 1, but they still have the ability to transition into an anti-aggro metagame deck in post-boarded games.

Voice of Resurgence
Experiment One

felske's Golgari

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Golgari decks were, hands down, the best aggressive decks prior to Dragon's Maze. The deck has recently enjoyed a comeback thanks to a strong Selesnya and Control matchup. Far // Away is played primarily for Away, but Far is easily splashed off a few copies of Breeding Pool and Watery Grave. Gaze of Granite comes in against Advent of the Wurm/Call of the Conclave decks. Underworld Connections forces control players to rush in with a risky Ætherling and attempt a race as soon as possible.

Far // Away
Gaze of Granite

Migrat's Mono-Red

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Block Constructed Mono-Red is all about inexpensive creatures that flood the board quickly, chopping into the opponent's life total early and establishing enough of a board presence to finish things with a Dynacharge or Rubblebelt Maaka. The deck is fairly straightforward, but its power is not to be underestimated. People continue to win premier events with Mono-Red in the midst of Centaur Healers and Trostani, Selesnya's Voice. Act of Treason punishes opponents for tapping out for Blood Baron of Vizkopa on the fifth turn, usually resulting in victory.

Rubblebelt Maaka

kaOz.Zeh's Naya

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Naya decks are, surprisingly, a relatively new phenomenon. The mana base is rough for these decks, but the power level is hard to contest. The deck gets on the board very quickly with Burning-Tree Emissary draws and uses spot removal to keep decks like Mono-Red from setting up a Dynacharge. The mid-/late-game Aurelia, the Warleader/Advent of the Wurm plan is terrifying for anyone; it allows the deck to easily attack for 16 the turn following a Supreme Verdict. The deck suffers a weak Esper and Grixis matchup, but with the right draw there's little that contests its raw power.

Burning-Tree Emissary
Aurelia, the Warleader


Supreme Verdict and a host of other powerful removal spells make Return to Ravnica Block Constructed Control strategies extremely viable. Far // Away is almost always a two-for-one when cast for full value because of the presence of Call of the Conclave and Advent of the Wurm. Ætherling is the most common finisher being used by these decks, but Maze's End continues to make waves as an uncounterable victory condition that allows a player to focus solely on a reactive game plan.

Yuffie's Maze's End

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Maze's End is still one of the best decks in the Block format. The deck plays enough inexpensive spot removal to survive early onslaughts from aggressive opponents and presents control decks with the hurdle of an uncounterable/inevitable win condition. Urban Evolution accelerates your win and refills your hand with reactive cards. Saruli Gatekeepers offers up a surprisingly robust body for the format and a massive 7 life for a deck that only cares about its own life total. Slaughter Games can be used to take out Ætherling/Sphinx's Revelation in the control matchups. It's hard to apply pressure on Planeswalkers with a fully reactive deck, but Dreadbore offers up an incredibly versatile way to interact with opposing 'walkers and efficiently kill opposing creatures.

Maze's End
Urban Evolution

GOTYOU189's Grixis Control

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Grixis Control strategies are relatively new in their current form. The deck is quickly being recognized as tier one. A quick look at recent Daily Events showcases the power of the deck. It may seem crazy to play a reactive deck without access to Sphinx's Revelation or Maze's End, but this deck performs beautifully in the current format. Far & Away punishes Selesnya opponents. Jace, Architect of Thought and Ætherling get powered out in Control matchups to dominate the game. After sideboarding, the deck can become an aggressive Grixis deck against other control strategies, and it gets to bring in Woodlot Crawler against Golgari and Selesnya decks as a two-mana wall that eventually closes the game.

Jace, Architect of Thought

Mult4ni's Esper Control

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Esper is the premier control strategy of the Block Constructed format. Removal spells + Sphinx's Revelation is a powerful strategy no matter how you look at it. The deck can be run over by aggressive strategies and needs to resort to things like Precinct Captain to survive early onslaughts. Historically, aggressive decks are the ones that take advantage of an opponent stumbling, but the Esper deck seems to fill that role in this block format. If an opponent curves out well and has a Supreme Verdict follow-up then it's hard to stay in a game, but if the opponent fails to hit a land drop or play a creature on one of the first two or three turns, the Esper deck can easily use this small trip up to establish control and take the game over with extremely powerful cards.

Sphinx's Revelation
Precinct Captain

Return to Ravnica Block Constructed is a healthy and exciting format with interactive games. I strongly recommend putting together a Block Constructed deck and taking a stab at the format in the next month or two. I'll see you at the end of the maze!

Magic 2014 Prereleases are just two days away! Be sure to find the Prerelease location nearest to you and be one of the first players to try your hand at the new set. My preview card from last week, Lifebane Zombie, and a host of other cards including Mutavault, are sure to shake things up in Standard going forward. Don't miss your opportunity to celebrate Magic's 20th anniversary with the latest core set! Magic 2014 will be available for Prerelease on Magic Online less than two weeks after its face-to-face release (July 26–28), so make sure you find your way into some of the online release/Prerelease events if you're unable to attend a live tournament.

Knowledge is power!


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