White Humans with (12) Sam Black

Posted in Event Coverage on May 28, 2016

By Melissa DeTora

Melissa is a former Magic pro player and strategy writer who is now working in R&D on the Play Design team.

Twelfth-ranked player Sam Black is known for building unique and innovative decks. He’s built many decks over his long career and is most well-known for building the Aristocrats deck that Tom Martell piloted to a first place finish at Pro Tour Gatecrash 2013. If there is one thing to remember about Sam Black, it’s that he’s always got an interesting brew up his sleeve. However to the surprise of many, Sam is playing a relatively stock White Humans at Grand Prix Minneapolis this weekend. Playing the most aggressive deck in Standard is definitely a metagame choice and not something expected out of someone like Sam Black.

“I played Green-Black in New York and I liked it, but I played a bunch of leagues with it and there were just so many mirrors and so many grindy matchups. I even did a league where I played against five Green-Black decks. I was only winning about half the time. I thought that there was no way that these decks could beat White Weenie,” Sam explained. “People just forgot about it.” Players were tuning their decks to beat each other and were mainly preparing for Esper Control, White-Black Control, and Green-Black. With the focus on winning the grindy matchups, they wouldn’t be prepared for White Humans.

“I played White Weenie in a bunch of leagues and I went 5-0, 4-1, 4-1, 4-1. I went 17-3 in leagues, so my theory was right. The list I played in the leagues was the same list that did well before the PT; I didn’t change a card, it’s all the normal things you’d expect.” Sam’s deck is what you would call a stock list, and in fact he chose to go for “as stock a list as possible.” There are only eighteen lands and mostly one-drops. The deck’s early-game plan is to play a one-drop turn one and two one-drops turn two and just start applying pressure as early as possible. Most decks in Standard are not well-equipped to defeat this strategy.

Sam Black

The one piece of innovative tech that Sam is playing is his three copies of Needle Spires in the sideboard. “Westvale Abbey, Gideon, and Secure the Wastes was the plan before the PT,” explained Sam about how to beat slower decks. “I didn’t like Westvale Abbey. Colorless mana is useless and it’s a ton of mana to activate. It’s pretty rare that you are ever in a situation to use it. However you do need to side in lands when you’re bringing in Gideon. Gideon is how you beat sweepers.”

Sam also tried out Eerie Interlude as a way to combat the sweepers in the format like Languish and Radiant Flames, but it came up short. “It’s bad. You need to be proactive against those decks.” He knew that playing creature lands was the best plan and had to choose between Shambling Vent and Needle Spires.

“Needle Spires is the better choice. It’s better than Shambling Vent. You have Always Watching and pump which is good with double strike. In a recent game I played my opponent Languished me and I did not expect to win; all I had left in hand was a 2/1, but Needle Spires and Always Watching got there. It gives the deck the ability to attack after a sweeper. The opportunity cost is low.”

Sam has four copies of Battlefield Forge to support his three Needle Spires, which he only brings in when he is also boarding Gideon. “You want to go turn one one-drop, turn two one-drop, that land.”

While the deck is not the most innovative deck that Sam has come up with, he definitely knows what his plan is. “A lot of people have three Gideon, three Hanweir Militia Captain. They are the highest impact cards, so I’m playing four of each instead of three. I also have the fourth Gryff’s Boon in the sideboard, something that many people aren’t playing.”

So far Sam’s plan is working as he has faced mostly slower decks so far today. Only time will tell if his theory is correct.

Sam Black's White Humans

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