Exploiting Blue And Black

Posted in Event Coverage on May 10, 2015

By Peter Rawlings

With Khans of Tarkir departed from the format, Limited has seen a renewed focus on two-color decks. Whether its aggressive Black-Red decks stuffed with dash creatures, or White-Green builds looking to bolster their way to victory, two-color is back in style. But in this format the best of these combinations, by far, is Blue-Black, according to Limited master Chris Fennell.

After tromping his way through Day 1 with an undefeated record on the back of a Blue-Black (splashing White) build, Fennell turned to that archetype yet again for his first draft of Day 2. “Blue-Black is just the best archetype by a lot,” Fennell said. “It's so hard for other decks to overcome its early defense and card advantage.”


Chris Fennell was hoping the creature-sacrificing power of Blue-Black (oh, and three copies of Damnation) would carry him to yet another Limited Grand Prix Top 8.

The keys to a good Blue-Black deck? “You really want cards like Sultai Emissary and Palace Familiar,” he said. “I also think Shambling Goblin is underrated, because you are so advantaged in the late game that you just don't want to take damage early. Most other decks can't beat you card-for-card, so they're just trying to beat you with stuff like Sarkhan's Rage and War Flare.” Shambling Goblin can stymie the early aggression that makes those cards deadly.

Fennell had two copies of the pesky Zombie Goblin in his Sealed deck yesterday, and scrounged up a single copy for his Draft deck today—though he opted to take a Vial of Dragonfire over a second copy midway through his second pack.

“That was just a speculative pick, hoping that I would get a Renowned Weaponsmith in the next pack,” Fennell said. He even managed to pick up a second copy of the Vial with his third-to-last pick in pack two, but alas the Human Artificer was nowhere to be found.

Of course, no Blue-Black deck would be complete without a healthy dose of creatures featuring exploit, the archetype's marquee mechanic from Dragons of Tarkir. The standouts for Blue-Black are cards like Silumgar Butcher or Silumgar Sorcerer, which can enable a clean two-for-one trade or better when exploiting fodder like Palace Familiar or Jeskai Sage. Lower power-level cards like Gurmag Drowner are still excellent in the right build, and that's not even to speak of the most potent exploit cards Blue-Black has on offer, such as Rakshasa Gravecaller, Fennell said.

He second-picked the “mini Grave Titan” in pack one, after kicking off his draft with a Twin Bolt and said the card is so strong that he was prepared to splash it, if needed. But the black cards came like a geyser in pack two, which started off with Ultimate Price, Ukud Cobra and Deathbringer Regent, cementing Fennell in his preferred archetype.

Overall, Fennell was extremely pleased with how his deck came together after he admittedly got very lucky in the third pack, opening a Crux of Fate and being passed a Reach of Shadows (which just so happened to sit beside a second Crux of Fate). He ended up with a full three wrath effects in his deck between the two Fate Reforged sorceries and the Deathbringer Regent. Nobody plays around the second wrath, Fennell said, and even fewer play around the third.

In Draft, where he has the opportunity to shape opponents' decks as well as his own, Fennell also advocated cutting off-color cards early and often when constructing Blue-Black. Since the archetype is often dependent on a few key finishers to put away the game, it can be important to deprive opponents of answers, he said.

“That's the reason I took a mid-pack Pinion Feast,” Fennell said. “Since I just want to win with fliers, I want them to have one less card with text against my deck.”

“I hate giving people good cards—I hate draft all the time,” he said. “Especially in this draft because my deck was insane and it got to the point where there wasn't any reason to pick up a replacement-level card—I just decided I was going to take the best card out of each pack.”

That included plucking a Hunt the Weak and a Temur Battle Rage out of the third pack with his fifth and seventh picks, respectively. That made two fewer cards the player to his left—firmly solidified in Red-Green—might be able to use to steal a win.

Fennell similarly opted to cut an Enduring Scalelord over Contradict in pack two. The 5-mana Dismiss is not very good in Blue-Black, he said, and he preferred to cut a potentially frightening threat from his opponents.

The other trick to success with Blue-Black? “Draw first,” Fennell said. He chose to draw first in all of his Day 1 matches in Sealed, and planned to do the same for his first three matches, at least, here on Day 2. The plan is to maximize the card advantage to be gained from trading off early creatures like Sultai Emissary, while finishing the game with fliers like Ojutai Interceptor—cards that formed the backbone of his decks both yesterday and today. And if all else fails, well, there's always those three wraths.

Chris Fennell - Sealed

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Chris Fennell – Draft #1

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