Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Blow 3.0

So can we jam for a second about how awesome it is that Blow is back in standard?

Esper Humans

4 Godless Shrine
4 Hallowed Fountain
2 Mutavault
4 Plains
4 Temple of Deceit
4 Temple of Silence
3 Watery Grave

2 Ephara, God of the Polis
4 Imposing Sovereign
4 Lyev Skyknight
3 Obzedat, Ghost Council
3 Precinct Captain
4 Soldier of the Pantheon
3 Xathrid Necromancer

4 Detention Sphere
1 Far // Away
1 Hero's Downfall
1 Spear of Heliod
2 Supreme Verdict
1 Ultimate Price
2 Whip of Erebos

1 Blood Baron of Vizkopa
2 Dark Betrayal
2 Doom Blade
1 Duress
2 Gainsay
1 Glare of Heresy
1 Hero's Downfall

So now you're probably thinking, what the fuck is Blow and what does it have to do with Esper Humans?

We'll work backward from the present. 

In 2003, I advocated briefly for this deck to be considered for players heading to the State Championships. The year before, during the 2002 version, a B/W Cleric deck called Blow won Iowa Champs piloted by Gabriel Stoffa. We'll get to the Iowa deck in a minute, but analyzing the list above, you'd be hard-pressed to say it's anything special. Still, testing confirmed that the deck stacked up well against Goblins, still the biggest threat at the time given that Affinity hadn't found Arcbound Ravager in a pile of darksteel yet. And Slide had little to no chance at defeating Blow 2.0, despite playing a deadly nuke against tokens in its namesake enchantment and Wind Shards backup against a Zombie horde. Nova Cleric was actually just that relevant, and you had 6 virtual copies with the Doomed Necromancers.

The list isn't perfect, but versions of it did end up performing reasonably well. A perfect example of the Blow deck took down Champs the year before I riffed on it in the article on StarCityGames.

3 City of Brass
11 Plains
1 Starlit Sanctum
2 Swamp

4 Beloved Bodyguard
4 Beloved Chaplain
4 Devoted Caretaker
4 Master Apothecary
4 Nova Cleric
4 Rotlung Reanimator
4 Weathered Wayfarer

3 Disenchant
4 Prismatic Strands
4 Shared Triump
4 Wrath of God


3 Cabal Therapy
3 Oversold Cemetary
3 Ray of Revelation
4 Spurnmage Advocate
2 Worship

Holy Jesus, those were dark times for mana bases. Pray they never return. But Weathered Wayfarer made it work, eking out card advantage slower than a Jayemdae Tome, grinding the whole game to four mana, however long it took. 

Tribal decks are automatically fun to play, and this one has the added benefit of blowing up your own creatures for profit to go along with a cartload of synergy. 

Which brings us back to the new decklist and the current standard format. Esper Humans is, to be fair, not entirely in the full aggro lite-control mode that Blow was. But it provides a hell of a blueprint for building something that goes ham on the concept. Here's my take:

4 Godless Shrine
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Watery Grave
4 Plains
3 Temple of Deceit
2 Temple of Enlightenment
2 Temple of Silence
2 Mutavault

25 Lands

That's right, another three-color deck that runs two colorless lands without a hitch. Praise based Ravnica.

Next we need our amped-up aggro package:

4 Imposing Sovereign
4 Lyev Skyknight
4 Deputy of Acquittals
1 Sin Collector
3 Precinct Captain
1 Obzedat, Ghost Council
4 Soldier of the Pantheon
4 Xanthrid Necromancer
2 Ephara, God of the Polis

27 Creatures

The game plan revolves around playing 187 creatures and running them headfirst into the opposition or wiping them away and replacing them with shambling mobs of undead. On the play, Imposing Sovereign is a virtual Time Walk, ensuring you'll always be a turn ahead even if they match you creature for creature. Skyknight, Obzedat and Sin Collector all offer extra value with Ephara in play, and Deputy of Acquittals can trigger the card-drawing celestial force during your own upkeep while guaranteeing you'll get another draw on your opponent's turn. You can tell from the creatures that this version always wants two untapped lands on turn two, which goes to explain the less-than-full-pack of Temples.

Your best start against most decks that flood the board with creatures is Soldier into Sovereign into Necromancer into Supreme Verdict. You'll have dealt eight and wiped the board, leaving you with 3 2/2s and a card to whatever they've managed to hold back defending against a perfect curve.

2 Detention Sphere
4 Supreme Verdict
1 Whip of Erebos
1 Spear of Heliod

8 Spells

Nothing too exciting here. Spear can really push an aggressive start over the top, and the Whip helps you stabilize or counterattack, especially post-Verdict. The Spheres are catch-alls that also make the unlikely possibility of an Ephara attack enter the realm of this-could-actually-happen.


1 Sin Collector
3 Bile Blight
1 Hero's Downfall
1 Ultimate Price
1 Blood Baron of Vizkopa
2 Obzedat, Ghost Council
2 Thoughtseize
2 Detention Sphere

The sideboarding plan revolves around situations where your first and second onslaughts are being repelled by a control deck that can't handle grinding card advantage with Obzedat and Ephara. There's a smattering of removal suitable against rats and tokens, plus options against more monstrous threats. Whatever your needs are after board, you'll be taking out the Deputies, one or two Verdicts, the Spear, possibly the Sovereigns.

The two basic substitutions are

Against tokens or Pack Rat-style aggression:
-3 Deputy of Acquittal
-1 Spear of Heliod
-2 Ephara, God of the Polis
-1 Sin Collector
-1 Soldier of the Pantheon (on the draw)

+3 Bile Blight
+1 Hero's Downfall
+1 Ultimate Price
+2 Detention Sphere
+1 Blood Baron of Vizkopa (on the draw)

Against control you need to grind away:
-2 Supreme Verdict
-4 Imposing Sovereign

+1 Sin Collector
+2 Thoughtseize
+1 Blood Baron of Vizkopa
+2 Obzedat, Ghost Council

If you liked this roundabout trip to a new decklist, let me know. If you didn't, well, hopefully there was still something in this for you (or I'm sorry you read all the way to the end of an article you hated). 

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