Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Comboing in Post-Innistrad: Not Just Heartless

(Ed. Note: By request, due to the results of two SCG Standard Opens, we are posting this article on Monday, instead of Friday, so that interested players can start testing for The 2011s using this build.  Because of this, the article is shorter than expected, there will be a “Second Part” on Friday with more detail including sample games)

I’ve been asked a few times in the last two weeks what my deck choice for The 2011s would be if the tournament was tomorrow.  I’ve advocated a few different builds of popular decks in previous articles, but in the interests of protecting people who were planning on playing the next deck, I’ve refrained from talking about it.  But, in the interest of generating more interest for the website, and also because of the strength of the deck making it resilient, I sent in the following article early.  Good luck to everyone this weekend.
I was extremely nervous to start brewing this deck.  Revoke Existence, Oblivion Ring, Liliana, Tribute to Hunger of all things, and various counterspells peeking their heads out on occasion.  Those cards all exist and are played often.  Dispatch shows up in Tempered Steel, and Phantasmal Image makes you sad.  Spellskite makes you look silly.

As I looked over the decklist’s weaknesses in my notebook, I decided to ignore my own fear and just start the deck with answer cards and counterspells, and then test to see how much of the combo needs to be in the deck to be effective.

The results were surprising.  Liliana and Tribute to Hunger are simply irrelevant in many cases, as Master’s Call, Blade Splicer, and Snapcaster himself all conveniently leave extra bodies to dodge Edict effects.  Probe/Nevermore is a catch-all answer package that handles Revoke Existence and Oblivion Ring, and I already knew I wanted Mental Misstep to stop any fast shenanigans before they got out of hand.

The original build had some Day of Judgments and some Dismembers but the more I played with it, the less I wanted them.  There just aren’t that many decks running enough creatures to make Day of Judgment worthwhile, and your game plan means that they have one turn to answer your “combo” or they lose.  I kept tapping out for Day of Judgment in playtest games and at some point it finally clicked that in almost every situation, if I would have been tapping out for Shape Anew instead, I would just win.

Here is the tuned list:

4 Snapcaster Mage
3 Blade Splicer
2 Merfolk Looter
1 Blightsteel Colossus
1 Wing Splicer

3 Master’s Call
3 Shape Anew
2 Twisted Image
4 Gitaxian Probe
2 Nevermore
4 Mental Misstep
4 Mana Leak
1 Dissipate
4 Ponder

4 Inkmoth Nexus
4 Glacial Fortress
4 Seachrome Coast
7 Island
3 Plains

A Few Basic Notes on Playing the Deck:

The loss of See Beyond hit harder than I expected in early testing, which is why the deck plays Merfolk Looter.  Looter actually has decent synergy with Snapcaster Mage, as well, but in general, you only play her if you accidently draw the Colossus, as you have almost no way to win if your Colossus is in your hand.

Ponder is not always, or even usually, an early play.  It is included to work with your cantrips and Snapcaster in order to make sure the Colossus does not accidently get drawn.  Because of the threat density (or lack thereof), you usually will not shuffle off of Ponder, treat it as a Reach through Mists—as terrible as that sounds—and you will be rewarded.

Playing against Solar Flare or Blue/Black Control with Liliana or Tribute to Hunger actually speeds your gameplan up.  You can play blind cantrips and move through your deck quickly because the odds heavily favor your opponent activating Liliana at some point, essentially giving you a free Loot to get the Colossus back in your deck.

If you don’t remember the list of cards I provided above, take the time to memorize them.  If a card isn’t on that list, you probably do not need to counter it except in very odd circumstances.  A few additional cards to watch out for:

                Tree of Redemption
                Karn Unleashed
                Spine of Ish Sah
                Black Sun’s Zenith


The biggest issue I ran into while playtesting was the ineffectiveness of sideboard plans.  I decided on the transition/bullet route, but I’ll continue to refine the list as the deck becomes available online.

3 Geist of Saint Traft
2 Sword of War and Peace
1 Batterskull
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
2 Azure Mage
3 Timely Reinforcements
1 Gideon Jura
1 Dissipate
1 Revoke Existence

Your normal transition plan is pretty simple: -1 Blightsteel Colossus, -3 Master’s Call, -3 Shape Anew, -2 Twisted Image, +3 Geist of Saint Traft, +2 Sword of War and Peace, +1 Batterskull, +1 Sword of Feast and Famine, +2 Azure Mage.

After that, you mix and match based on what deck they are playing:

Against Mono-Red: Do not Transform Fully, Instead:  -4 Ponder, -2 Twisted Image, -2 Nevermore +2 Sword of War and Peace, +1 Batterskull, +3 Timely Reinforcements, +1 Gideon, +1 Revoke Existence.

Against Solar Flare: -4 Ponder, +3 Master’s Call, +1 Batterskull or +2 Twisted Image, +1 Gideon, +1 Dissipate

Against Illusions: -4 Ponder, -2 Nevermore, +3 Timely Reinforcements, +1 Gideon Jura, +2 Twisted Image

Against R/G: Do not Transform.  -2 Twisted Image, +1 Dissipate, +1 Sword of Feast and Famine

For the rest of the match-ups, you should be able to determine what you need to do based on what cards they are specifically playing.  In general, against decks without white or black, you do not need to transform and almost definitely shouldn’t.  You have great match-ups against those decks.

Interestingly enough, the transformational board plan results in a pretty darn good deck (it is very close to the U/W Snap-blade lists that have been performing well).  As always, you keep them guessing by having an effective transform plan as the cards that are best against Colossus are not very good (really at all) against the Geist of Saint Traft with plenty of bodies stacked around him.

As it turns out, Myr pick up Swords pretty well, so be ready to keep those in over Ponder on occasion when transforming. 

It probably goes without saying, but you should definitely be shuffling your whole sideboard into your deck and taking out fifteen cards, as sideboarding 11 to 13 cards in the old-fashioned way is a good sign that you are on the transform plan.

Wrapping it up:

If you can’t tell, I really stand behind this deck.  At first, it was an idle experimentation, but when I actually started to play the games, I was amazed with the results.  Depending on the metagame, in fact, you may want to consider reversing the transformation.  However you decide to do it, playing with giant robot monsters is flat-out fun, and you are rarely in a situation that you can’t get out of by just summoning an 11/11 beatstick.

Next week I’ll take you through a few games with the deck, and I’ll deliver that look at Innistrad limited I promised in the last article (this deck was just too awesome to ignore).

No comments:

Post a Comment