7/20/2011 9:35:00 AM
This weekend I drove to Cincinnati with Dave Shiels and Edgar Flores. On the 12 hour drive, we had plenty of time to talk about what we thought Standard was going to look like. I was convinced the addition of Ponder would push a controlling combo deck like Pyromancer Ascension
over the top. Edgar was still playing CawBlade, saying Squadron Hawk
is now the best card in the format. Dave was convincing us that Tempered Steel
is a real deck, by smashing our brews game after game once we got to the hotel. All 3 of us went into the tournament with different decks, and we were all excited to be playing Standard with M12.
Dave and Edgar found success, while I stumbled through the tournament and dropped at 2-3. I did poorly due to a combination of playing incorrectly and playing an inconsistent combo deck. Even after my bad performance, I still think that Pyromancer has the potential to be a top tier deck, but it needs a lot more work than the other top decks right now. I'm with Dave and Edgar in Atlanta at Korey McDuffie's place, and I'm going to use their help to cover the important aspects of the decks they played.
Stoneforge Mystic and Jace, the Mind Sculptor
were banned, then M12 was released. After this, CawBlade won SCG: Cincinnati, with four copies of the archetype in the top 16. Fast white artifact decks rose up out of block and made their impact. If we want to build a deck to do well in the Standard metagame, we have to understand what the decks to beat are doing.
5th Place, David Shiels, SCG: Cincinatti
Porting over from block constructed, Tempered Steel
gains Steel Overseer
, as well as a small blue splash for consistency with Preordain
, and Mana Leak post board. For those who didn't play in Nagoya, or don't play much online, this deck being the best aggressive deck in Standard might come as a surprise. It's very fast, and the combination of Dispatch
make interacting with it difficult. Blockers are unreliable, as their creatures are generally evasive and large. Targeted removal, wrath effects, and card draw would be a good path to victory, but only if we use the correct answers. Shrine of Loyal Legions
and Origin Spellbomb punish players for overly relying on spot removal, beating the traditional shortcomings of the archetype.
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I asked Dave about the most important aspects of playing the deck, for advice to someone who has never piloted it before.
-It's important to remember what type of deck you are. You want to play your creatures and kill your opponent quickly, and your most important cards are Signal Pest
, Steel Overseer
, and Tempered Steel
-Don't be afraid to keep one landers, as your deck can operate on very few lands.
-Glint Hawk Idol is often very difficult to kill, and games can often be won off of protecting your Glint Hawk Idol
s or Inkmoths. Holding onto your 4th land is often correct, so your Inkmoth Nexus
can't be Tectonic Edge'd.
-When sideboarding, it's important to keep your artifact count up, as if you board out too many artifacts for colored spells, you will stumble more often.
For updates to the deck, Dave suggests cutting the Celestial Purge
s for Mental Missteps, as well as the Kor Firewalker
s for an additional copy each of Timely Reinforcements
and Revoke Existence
. Timely Reinforcements
is just much better against red decks than Kor Firewalker
is, due to their inability to interact with it. Unlike Firewalker, which can be killed with Dismember
or Shrine of Burning Rage
, Timely Reinforcements
is always going to provide a life and creature advantage that is the equivalent to 2 or more of their cards. Timely Reinforcements
feels like a 4-for-1 for 2W.
Even without Stoneforge Mystic
and Jace, CawBlade is still a very powerful archetype full of the best spells in the format. Sword of Feast and Famine turns every 1/1 into a threat that must be answered, and plays just as well with Squadron Hawk
as ever. Timely Reinforcements
is a very important card for the aggro match ups, as it's one of your only reliable ways of getting ahead. Spellskite
and Consecrated Sphinx
are Edgar's creature suite, as he wants all of his creatures to be resilient against opposing Dismembers.
I'm probably going to be playing a CawBlade variant in my next tournament, whether that's Seattle or Pittsburgh I'm not sure, as I haven't yet booked my flight. CawBlade is as consistent and reliable as it gets, and with the “best version” up in the air, people can't play around every possibility out of the deck. Do you leave up Mana Leak
on turn 4? If your opponent is playing Hero of Bladehold
, and you don't have the Dismember
, you would definitely want to. If your CawBlade opponent isn't playing Hero, their turn 4 is one of the safest times for you to tap out.
If there is anything we should learn from this weekend, it's that artifact removal is still valuable. Moving forward from Edgar's list, we want to work on our Tempered Steel
and Puresteel Paladin
match ups, as those are the decks we need the most help against.
Ratchet Bomb is one of the best cards against the Tempered Steel
deck, often killing multiple permanents and fitting your curve easily. The 4th Dismember
in the board is a slot we can cut, as well as the Batterskulls. The best performing aggro decks in Cincinatti were Tempered Steel
and Puresteel Paladin
. Unlike when Mono Red and Vampires were the decks to beat (though to an extent, they both still are), Batterskull
is not very effective at beating the permanent-based creature decks. Puresteel Paladin
and friends will gladly let you tap out to put a Batterskull
into play, as they have many trumps to the card. Batterskull
doesn't profitably interact with the cards out of Tempered Steel
, as they won't ever need to use Dispatch
before you cast it, and they can largely ignore the card when they win with Inkmoth Nexus, or gigantic evasive creatures.
This is the Pyromancer list I played, with the changes I'd make after playing in the tournament.
is better than Call to Mind
in the main deck, as both will end the game when you have an active Pyromancer Ascension
, but Foresee
is much better when you don't. Having a form of card advantage, even as a 2 of, is very important, and Scry 4 is worth at least a card itself. Saturday morning, Caleb convinced me that playing less than 4 Into the Roil
is wrong, and he was definitely correct. Into the Roil
answers any problematic permanent, from Phyrexian Obliterator
to Leyline of Sanctity
to Deceiver Exarch
, and drawing multiples is often advantageous due to Pyromancer Ascension
and their ability to protect you from any way your opponent wants to kill you. Unlike other decks, where a Disperse
would too negatively impact your card economy, even the Boomerang
half of Into the Roil is often good enough, especially against the decks which can't interact with your enchantment.
Spell Pierce was definitely hit-or-miss in my matches, sometimes being an all star and other times the worst card in my deck. It's completely possible that Mental Misstep
is a better main deck choice than Spell Pierce, and if I expected a black or red heavy metagame, I would want to play the Legacy staple in my main. As for now, I think that the white artifact decks are stronger, and want to have more slots for them, so I'm playing 2 copies of Into the Core
in my sideboard. Into the Core
helps deal with Glint Hawk Idol
and Shrine of Loyal Legions
equally, as well as half of the Puresteel Paladin
If you want to fit both the Pyromancer Ascension
and the Deceiver-Twin combo in the same deck, you should be playing Shrine of Piercing Vision
. I was playing some games with my Pyromancer list against Gerry T's U/R Twin list, and Shrine was easily one of the most powerful cards in the match up. It shines most against opposing control and combo decks, where you often can sit around, leaving your mana up, and wait for the 2 mana artifact to become a Demonic Tutor
. Even at it's worst, it's free to activate, and a delayed Impulse
is an appreciated effect in a deck that has a 2-card combo.
The other card I was again incredibly impressed with is Gitaxian Probe
. While Pyromancer Ascension
specifically appreciates the free to play cantrip, in any deck with spot removal and counter magic, a “free” Peek is a powerful effect, letting you know exactly what to play around and how best to utilize your mana. In the U/R on U/R match up, if one person had Probed and the other one didn't, the person with perfect information was hugely advantaged.
In Legacy I played U/W, this time with Stoneforge Mystic
. I eventually went back to Stoneforge Mystic
based off of my desire to play Vendillion Clique. First, I wanted Vendillion Clique in the main, as it is simply one of the most powerful blue cards in the format. It's always good, your opponent almost always has to kill it, and it's difficult to answer profitably. In order to make Vendillion Clique better, Stoneforge Mystic
is important, as it makes it more realistic for you to kill your opponent with damage, and is an additional target for opposing removal. With both Stoneforge and Clique in my deck, I moved back to Standstill
over Ancestral Visions
Three Stoneforge Mystic
and a single Batterskull
as the only equipment in the 75 might look strange, but I'm fairly convinced it's the right numbers. Any other equipment you could be messing around with just isn't worth the slots in your deck, and drawing multiple Stoneforges in Legacy is not usually what you want to do. Your primary plan is to cast multiple one for ones, and get ahead either on board either with Batterskull
or in cards with Standstill
Even against a lot of the aggressive decks, we want to board out the Stoneforges and Batterskull
for the full set of Paths and Wraths. Stoneforge is more like a safety net in the deck, instead of the all-star it is in other formats. Stoneforge offers a different angle of attack, but we are playing a very slow, controlling deck in a format where creatures are more often than not ignored, or easily killed. Drawing too many creatures and equipment will let the unfair decks run over you.
I started the tournament 5-0, then picked up a draw in the U/W mirror. I lost game 1 in a quick “Still had all these!” fashion, and won a 35 minute, extremely grinding game 2, where I finally caught my opponent's Batterskull
while he was tapped out with my Oblivion Ring
. With 5 minutes left to start game 3, we drew.
Then the wheels fell off.
My next round was against Ben Weinberg on camera, and as in my last match on camera, I got demolished by Hive Mind
in less than 10 minutes. In game 1, I didn't know what deck Ben was playing, and kept a double Factory + Wasteland
hand with Force of Will
, and it fell just short. In game 2 I have to mull to 5 and keep Factory, Tundra
, with Spell Pierce
, Force of Will
, and another blue card. I thought that was about as good as it gets on 5, though I just died on turn 3 even with my double counter spell back up.
After that, I played against Caleb, and badly misevaluated his deck. In game 1, I die to a resolved Jace, and for game 2, I don't sideboard correctly at all. I left half of my Path to Exile
s in the Sideboard, boarding out all of my Force of Wills. Afterwards, I'm getting beaten down by Wild Nacatls, and though my deck should still have been advantaged against his, I create a bad game plan, realize my plan is bad, then switch it half way through, and die due to my turn by turn blunders. I'll blame Caleb for being so entertaining that I forgot how to win my match.
As for now, I'm sitting here refreshing the page on all of the travel websites I know, hoping one of them is low enough to convince me to go to Seattle. If not, I'll be planning for Pittsburgh while enjoying the ups and downs of summertime in Atlanta.