Tuesday 26 February 2013

Early Review Troubles

I have never really had a need of quickly assessing cards until this blog. Previously I would just throw all the interesting cards into the cube and wait until testing and experience reveal the truth about the cards. Any card I missed would be hyped by the magic community and turn up in various constructed decks and so I could easily place those in the cube as well despite being off my radar. I find it quite interesting to look over my initial thoughts about cards to see how and why I was wrong. Being right is nice but it doesn't teach you as much. Conveniently I put a top 5 cube cards (or more) for each review which I have collated in this post and placed it next to how I would rate the top 5 cards from the set now after having played with them a reasonable amount.

If I am honest I thought early reviews would be pretty easy, I can remember reading LSVs various set reviews and chuckling to myself about the odd card he got wrong that I thought was obvious. While I have gotten a fair bit better at assessing cards quickly over the last year I am still far less consistent than the likes of the afor mentioned LSV rather unsurprisingly. The one aspect of Magic this highlights more than anything else is the value of teamwork, discussion and cooperation. I would put money on the most accurate ratings being an average of the ratings given by many individuals. Skill level is of course important but not the primary factor, I would also put money on the ratings given by one top level pro being less accurate than the amalgamated ratings of ten people with 1800ish rankings. Never rule out someones opinion because you are the better Magic player and avoid going with your own opinions without working them through with others. As I found with most of Magic, what applies to it also applies to the rest of life and the value of sharing and blending opinions is no exception to this.

Any how, it turns out making solo quick judgements on cards is really hard. I have started discussing the interesting ones with as many people to hand as possible which helps. Knowing your strengths, weaknesses and bias is a great aid in being able to compensate. I am far better at spotting the cheap cards that are clearly cube worthy but I suspect that is the case for most people. Cheaper cards have less scope and see more play so there is more available comparisons within better defined ranges. As cards go up in cost I really struggle to place them and often disregard them for their price despite their power. I am biased against cards that seem somewhat cross purposes and overly fond of cheap versatile cards even if they are very low power level. An example of an expensive, seemingly cross purpose yet very powerful card I initially disregarded was Consecrated Sphinx. For six mana I wanted to either have an awesome game winning threat or much more reliable and powerful card draw. It was not until playing it I realised quite how powerful it was and was able to see past the clumsy and costly aspects of the card. I was able to spot Thundermaw Hellkite more easily as it is comparable to Rorix and Baneslayer Angel who have both spent much time in the cube but without these kinds of reference card I still struggle.

One of the main objectives with this blog was to review each cube card which I started off by taking the cube as it was at that moment in time and in one go reviewing each card. This was OK for cards that had been in the cube for a long time however there were many cards from Innistrad and even a few from the previous Mirrodin block that I was not fully familiar with and in hindsight got nearly as wrong as some of the cards on my initial set reviews. Going over old bits with a years hindsight it is clear that those reviews not purporting to be "initial" need going over and touching up which is quite a project and hopefully something I can get done soon.

Although not something I intended to do at the beginning I quite enjoy the initial set reviews and will continue to do them despite usually missing a couple of big names and overrated lots of janky junk. If I continue to improve at the rate I have been over the last year they should be pretty good in a few more however I would still always recommend reading around, chatting with your mates and critically analysing your own opinions before accepting any one source as gospel.

Finally for your amusement at what crud I thought would be good at the gems I totally missed here is the various top 5 lists from the early reviews. The sets from RtR block have not yet had quite as much testing as I would like for a reasonable assessment and so the top five for now is still probably a little off. They are at least the best cards from each set and therefore the ones seeing most play and thus needing least time to become familiar with. Avecyn Restored was the set I was most wrong on for which I put a lot down to a complete misjudgement of the miracle mechanic. I thought all the cheaper spells would be good with the top end ones like Bonfire and Terminus being too unreliable and expensive. It turned out you want your cheap spells reliable and your game winners to be totally unfair which is why miracle suits the big cards far better than the little ones. It is not worth setting up for a turn to miracle cast a Vanishment however it very much is worth it to cast a Bonfire of the Damned.

Dark Ascension


5. Faithless Looting
4. Strangleroot Geist
3. Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
2. Thalia, Guardian of Threben
1. Gravecrawler


5. Thalia, Gaurdian of Threben
4. Strangleroot Geist
3 Gravecrawler
2. Lingering Souls
1. Faithless Looting

Avecyn Restored


5. Gloom Surgeon
4. Pillar of Flame
3. Timayo, the Moonsage
2. Vexing Devil
1. Temporal Mastery


5. Timayo, the Moonsage
4. Temporal Mastery
3. Restoration Angel
2. Terminus
1. Bonfire of the Damned



5. Augur of Bolas  
4. Ajani, Caller of the Pride   
3. War Falcon    
2. Thundermaw Hellkite     
1. Searing Spear


5. Augur of Bolas
4. Searing Spear
3. Thragtusk
2. Sublime Archangel
1. Thundermaw Hellkite

Return to Ravnica


1. Deathrite Shaman    
2. Dreadbore       
3. Lotleth Troll       
4. Abrupt Decay              
5. Rakdos Cackler


1. Deathrite Shaman
2. Dreadbore
3. Abrupt Decay
4. Mizzium Mortars
5. Rakdos Charm



5.   Boros Charm
4.   Dimir Charm
3.   Frontline Medic
2.   Skullcrack
1.   Cloudfin Raptor


5. Aurelia's Fury
4. Dimir Charm
3. Skullcrack
2. Merciless Eviction
1. Cloudfin Raptor

Sunday 24 February 2013

Top 10 Card Draw

I have done an updated version of this which can be found here:


ConcentrateI thought this would be a relatively straight forward list like the one for burn spells where each card is highly comparable. Indeed with draw effects you have even less to consider than with burn as it is broadly just mana cost and card return. It turns out all the best draw effects are used in very different ways by wildly differing decks that are trying to set up their own unique game states. Decks that want to draw cards with Fact or Fiction are very unlikely to also be able to optimally use a Skullclamp, decks that have the mana to bust out a five or more mana draw spell are similarly unlikely to also want to use the economic but slow Ancestral Visions. I even narrowed the scope of this list to include only cards that physically draw more cards rather than just providing card advantage such as a Bloodbraid Elf. I also only included cards that ultimately draw at least two more cards to rule out the card quality spells like Brainstorm and Ponder. I even ruled out cards like Horn of Greed that provide means to draw many cards but don't do it on their own. It feels for this reason like Skullclamp shouldn't be on the list but with the abundance of creatures and the effectiveness of the draw it can be used as an engine or as just a card draw effect in more decks than are able to use many of the cards on this list. Even so, rating certain cards above others in this list is rather arbitrary as they often have minimal overlap in application or archetypes. The blue cards have most overlap and the instant ones of those even more and for those the ordering should be more obviously sensible. For the most part this list is based mostly on the  frequency of play the cards receive.

It is also notable that most agro decks use little or no pure card draw spells because they can get enough card advantage from spells that also offer a tempo boost such as the afore mentioned Bloodbraid. Most control decks on the other hand are either going more the direction of the agro decks and getting card advantage alongside their other effects from cards like Consecrated Sphinx or planeswalkers or they are running a card advantage engine such as Life from the Loam. Trying to keep pace with the agro decks using pure card draw effects and efficient answers simply doesn't work, the card draw is not cost appropriately to do this. As such most control decks simply supplement their deck with the odd pure card draw spell to smooth curves or act as top quality filler and are able to function pretty well without any  of the pure form at all. Even combo plays little pure card draw any more, it may well have the odd symmetrical draw seven effect but these are usually for the ability to get back spent combo cards should the game go on a little longer than desired. The card quality and tutor effects are simply much more mana efficient so unless the combo deck has alternate uses for the specific draw spell such as a discard outlet or recursion effect it will avoid the latter in preference for the former.


12. Harmonize
11. Mulldrifter
10. Think Twice
9.   Thirst for Knowledge
8.   Yawgmoth's Bargain
7.   Memory Jar
6.   Time Spiral
5.   Ancestral Visions
4.   Fact or Fiction
3.   Skullclamp
2.   Necropotence
1.   Ancestral Recall

Ancestral RecallThe disparity on this list is more extreme than any other with the top card being nearly ten times better than the tenth. This is because card draw was wildly underestimated in the very early design of Magic and because now it is printed very gingerly leaving us with underwhelming new options and absurd old ones. Ancestral Recall is so clearly the best it is not really worth talking about. It is as cheap as can be, with no draw back what so ever and draws you more cards than many of the others do. It is instant and can even be a win condition, so moving on.

Necropotence is able to out pace Ancestral Recall for cards per mana or even initial cards influx however it is slower to draw the cards and typically slower to cast with somewhat restrictive colour requirements. On top of this it costs life and kills your normal draw putting you on somewhat of a self imposed clock. Despite this it is so cheap for so many cards all to your self it may be employed in agro, control and combo to good effect. You do need to tailor the deck to contain the Necro but once you can support it it gives you immense power. It is hard to lose when you make a Necropotence while under no pressure and on 20 life.

Fact or FictionSkullclamp needs creatures rather than life to generate you cards and so is not as cheap, nor as reliable as many of the cards on this list. If you are somehow generating one toughness tokens then it is incredibly efficient but even when your not it still offers great value and a variety of applications above and beyond pure card advantage.

Fact or Fiction is the classic, and to my mind fair, draw spell. It costs just over a mana per new card but affords you a good chunk of spells while digging a little deeper into your deck. Instant speed is essential on this card making it a great inclusion in control decks and mitigating the reasonably high mana costs. It allows your opponent to make mistakes while still giving you the final choice thus rendering it vastly more powerful than most cards that give your opponents control over aspects of the effect such as Vexing Devil. Furthermore it fills up your graveyard which makes splits with flashback cards involved extra hard and can be generally useful for many things from Snapcaster Mage to Psychatog. More cards like this to bolster the fair cube level of card draw would be lovely.

Ancestral VisionAncestral Visions is a lovely little card, the drawback perfectly balanced to make it fair, flavourful and widely playable. The low mana cost makes it viable in a wider array of decks than Fact or Fiction however the actual draw is worse being more easily disrupted and digging less far, not to mention devoid of a chance to get more than 3 cards. In a late game top deck situation this is pretty bad compared to most other draw effects which is a fair payoff for a card that is exceptional when suspended early and cheap enough not to hamper curving out.

Time Spiral is symmetrical draw and cannot easily be used by many kinds of decks as giving your opponent seven new cards as well is too much to cope with. The reason this is ahead of the other symmetrical draw spells is that it either generates you mana or costs none once it has resolved thus allowing you first dibs on using the new cards and no disparity in mana. In more aggressive or combo decks that can reach the six mana threshold it excels and is also playable in control however it is a dead card for control against decks like red deck wins where casting it is suicide.

Memory JarMemory Jar is the only other symmetrical draw spell to make this list and while it does set you back five mana on your opponent for having employed it there are two redeeming features for Jar that make this seemingly unfavourable asymmetry viable. One is that you have control over when to use the effect and are able to save it until you have all your mana spare to abuse and the other is that the hands only last a turn and so any sorcery speed cards they draw will be useless if used in your turn. A slightly clumsy card that is not playable in control decks however highly powerful and even abusable with things like Goblin Welder resulting in a very powerful card.

Yawgmoth's Bargain is surprisingly different to Necropotence despite its obvious similarities, it is less onerous on black requirement yet much more mana intensive to get on line. Should you be able to front the six mana cost or find a way to cheat this into play it is far superior to Necropotence offering its card bounty immediately. Black has access to both burst mana and tutor effects and so tends to play one or the other depending on what the deck is doing. Black is also very capable of forcing through spells with targetted discard. Generally I view Bargain as more of the combo or big control card with Necro being better for agro or disruption decks. Griselbrand is a weaker draw spell but has some other potent effects on the game and is easier to cheat into play despite the higher cost. They have much more in common with each other than either do with Necropotence and although residing in fairly different decks for the most part are still eating into the amount the other is getting played. Griselbrand is still fairly new and as such getting all the novelty play and while perhaps the better card overall he is just worse at the card side of things than Bargain and so doesn't make this list.

Thirst for Knowledge
Thirst for Knowledge is another very fair card that sees relatively little play due to its need of artifacts to discard. You can play it with a low artifact count but then it becomes card quality rather than advantage. When you can support it sensibly it is great, it digs relatively deep for a quite low cost and most importantly is instant making it viable in control. There are also decks where you actually want artifacts in the graveyard for cards like Goblin Welder for which Thirst becomes one of the very best cards. If the discard was something more universal like lands  or blue cards instead of artifacts, or always just one card, while retaining its instant cost it would probably get more play than Fact or Fiction, mostly for occupying a slot on the curve in less demand.

Think Twice is the poor control mans universal replacement for Thirst for Knowledge when it has insufficient artifacts. The total mana cost  and individual costs for the effect are both gross and would never cut it if it were not for the overall flexibility of the card. The ability to split when you pay the costs allows you to use it more as a way to usefully spend your mana than anything else. It is a card that has almost as much value in the graveyard as in your hand and enhances the effect of other cards in your deck like Fact or Fiction while de-powering some offensive disruption from your opponent such as a Blightning. Not a powerful card but a superb support and filler card despite this.

I felt this list should go to twelve as Ancestral Recall is banned and Skullclamp might not qualify for this list based on my exclusions. Mulldrifter is rather like Think Twice in that it is not wonderfully efficient card draw but offers enough flexibility to offset this. It is sorcery speed which is commonly a big no no for card draw only getting a few cards, particularly at five or even three mana however it does offer you some tempo itself. Given that losing tempo is the main drawback on card draw spells the sorcery speed and higher costs are mitigated somewhat. Mulldrifter sees a lot less play in control decks than Think Twice but still makes appearances in them while getting most of its play from mid range decks. When you can make extra use of the body through equipment or bounce effects the Mulldrifter also goes up in value. A great late game top deck and reasonable way to power into the mid game should you find yourself lacking lands, appropriate answers or beefy things to get on with.

The final card on this list is really quite laughable with the blue timeshifted version not having seen play for so so long. The cost to card ratios on this spell are not unacceptable however for a blue control mage the sorcery speed is. In green you care almost nothing for your card draw to be instant and you have much better mana ramp. A blue instant that cost 1UU and drew you three cards would seem outstanding and make the top end of this list and Harmonize is closer to this theoretical card than it is to Concentrate. Despite this green does not often play Harmonize however this has more to do with green lacking answers to things and thus needing to pose questions rather than find the right answers with card draw. Green has always tended to get its card advantage through doing other things like making dorks or Plowing lands or by using engines. Harmonize is very much on the cusp of being cube playable with only the top 8 cards in this list having been cube mainstays for the duration. I would like to see more powerful and more interesting cards that are pure card draw spells. The sparse nature of this list goes a long way to highlighting the deficit of good card draw in recent magic history. The design of modern cards has made pure card draw worse from several fronts. The higher power of monsters makes the loss of tempo from card draw more punishing. The greater resilience of permanents makes drawing into your answers a weaker strategy and the built in card advantage on many tempo gaining cards closes the gap on total card advantage between control and agro archetypes. As such you card draw is relatively less powerful despite drawing the same number of cards as it once did because one of the cards you drew with it was used to deal with something that had already paid for itself in card terms alone.

Tuesday 19 February 2013

Balls Out Blue

Cloudfin Raptor
I stand by my claim that Cloudfin Raptor is the best cube card from Gatecrash and have been playing him to good effect in an array of decks since its dismal beginnings in the evolve deck. I had an itch I wanted to scratch since reviewing it when I described the god draw of Cloudfin Raptor followed by Delver of Secrets and a Phantasmal Bear into flipping the Delver and dropping another 3 power flier on turn three for a total of 11 power, 8 attacking and 9 in the air from only blue cards. Agro blue has been viable in the cube since Lorwynn block however it needed support, it typically had to play as a control deck for a turn or two before it could start to apply pressure simply because it had nothing good it could lay to pressure early. It would also get outclassed by dorks from other colours and would need to run equipment, countermagic and/or control magic effects to be able to compete. As such you would end up with a deck that looked rather awkward like someone had taken a Faeries deck, a Skies deck and a mono blue control deck, shuffled them together and taken a random pile for their deck. Much has changed for blue in the cheap dork department over recent years and blue is just about reaching the critical mass of decent tempo early dorks to be able to do away with all the ugly control looking stuff and play a much more dedicated and streamlined beatdown deck. This list still has a tiny bit of countermagic and a way to steal their dorks but they are incidental and there to perform other roles in the deck as well, rather than just desperately plugging holes in the deck.

Phantasmal Bear25 Spells

Mana Crypt

Aether Vial
Cloudfin Raptor
Phantasmal Bear

Gitaxian Probe
Vapour Snag
Cursed Scroll
Delver of Secrets

Looter il-Kor
Cursed ScrollWaterfront Bouncer
Snapcaster Mage
Phantasmal Image

Gilded Drake

Grand Architect
Trinket Mage
Serendib Efreet
Kira, Great Glass-Spinner

Cryptic Command
Molten Tail Masticore
Jace, the Mind Sculptor

Riftwing Cloudskate
Timayo, the Moon Sage

Temporal Mastery

15 Lands

Faerie Conclave
Seat of the Synod
13 Islands

Trinket MageI was in shock at what blue can now flop down in the first few turns with Raptor on the scene, I am still in shock as to how well this deck performed. It is all so counter intuitive, especially to someone who has been playing magic since the times when Ernham Djinn was the best dork about. I would be playing against an agro style deck with this list and they would swing with a 2 power beater and I would snap block with my Trinket Mage assuming trading and stabilizing is the correct play. Then I would look at the board state and think, hold up, I'm winning this tempo game, I shouldn't block, I should take it in the face and hit you back like a good agro deck. I was facing a mono black agro deck as one of my matchups which along with red deck wins is about the worst matchup possible. Mono black has far better dorks with a nicer spread on the curve, it has better ramp, better removal and even better card advantage. The man handling this deck gave the mono black deck still fills me with disbelief. Not only was the blue disruption keeping pace with the black, the creatures were winning the race with many fat enough to block and much more evasion floating around. I think this list would goldfish the same speed or quicker than most good mono black agro lists. While I did not get to try it out against the fearsome red deck wins I did face a Boros deck however it was somewhat midrange and therefore inherently less able to compete in the vital tempo wars.

Grand ArchitectThe best card in this deck by a country mile is the Grand Architect, he just does so many things you can really abuse. Crusade on a dork is pretty good for any colour at three mana but in blue where you have more utility guys and smaller evasion dorks continuous pump effects are even more efficient. Then you get to turn all your dorks into Vedalken Engineers with haste (sort of). I am fairly sure if there were two cards, one with the mana effect and the other with the pump and both 1/3 for 1UU, that I would play both in this deck. It almost feels like a disadvantage having them on the same dude as he is the removal target and dies so fast in every game. Even so, getting one turn of boosted attackers and extra mana for artifacts will generally put you in a much better place that you were. The Grand Architect makes cards like Looter il-Kor and Waterfront Bouncer much better all round dorks and much more useful throughout the game. Architect also allows you to include cards like Cursed Scroll and Molten-Tail Masticore in this case and things like Vedalken Shackles more typically, all of which really aid you in being able to deal with dorks that otherwise blue has more trouble with.

Riftwing Cloudskate
Bounce is already pretty good in the cube with it being such a fast format however this deck is one of the very best homes for it. As this deck mono blue it is unable to really destroy anything in play at all without help from its artifact buddies.Bounce is a cheap and versatile way to at least get things out of play. With this deck being able to apply such good pressure from the outset the game is either over before a recast can happen or at least the card disadvantage aspect of bounce is irrelevant as the game never stops being about the tempo. Under such conditions Boomerang is rather like a cheaper instant speed Vindicate. Bounce is obviously cheap, especially compared to Control Magic effects. As the agro blue deck has reached the critical mass of cheap tempo dorks the deck has been able to shift away from a reliance on the expensive and inconsistent Control Magic cards towards relying on the cheap and versatile bounce cards.

Gilded Drake is a card that works really well if you have a good amount of bounce as it is cheap re-usable removal. Compared to Vedalken Shackles it is far less clumsy and far harder to disrupt as well as being able to take multiple dorks at once. I mentioned this was an incidental Control Magic effect meaning it is so cheap and effective in a list like this that it is being used as tempo removal rather than the slower card advantage removal style of cards like Sower of Temptation. Gilded Drake is also quite a good card for evolving up the Raptor which is surprisingly hard to find when restricted to agro blue dorks.

Temporal Mastery
One thing blue is well suited for in terms of an agro deck is the ability to take extra turns which is something that scales very well with a tempo lead. Five mana to take an extra turn is a lot but still very playable in a blue beat down deck provided you can reasonably get to that mana and also have card filtering and the like to make use of it at other points in the game prior to being able to cast it. Temporal Mastery is another new blue card that adds quite a lot to this archetype, as this list already has Jace for more bounce, and Brainstorm to enhance Delver and Snapcaster ,the Temporal Mastery is well supported and is quite reliably a two mana Time Walk, or Time Walk as its known. At such a low cost you can not only exploit a tempo lead but also easily extend one as well.

Agro blue decks have the ability to regain lost card advantage fairly easily compared to most other agro colours with the possible exception of black. This enables them to cover their weaknesses more effectively with cards that are cost you card advantage such as Chrome Mox. Even things like Aether Vial fall into this category to some extent as they are not a threat themselves. Playing direct card draw is a good way to lose tempo which is exactly what this deck doesn't want to do however to support the artifact ramp, and to some extent the bounce as well, it does require some card advantage. The best compromise on this front I felt was to play planeswalkers who can effect the board or draw cards so as to gain the appropriate advantage for the state of the game. I also shied away from the more extreme cards like Foil so as to limit the extent I would need more draw.

Daze and Gitaxian Probe were good ways of adding value to the deck at low costs and eeking out small advantages. Daze is not at all needed in the deck but fairly well compliments the lowish land count, most of which are islands, and also keeps people honest in play, even when you don't have it. This can give you a tiny tempo boost when people are being "honest" or it can completely blow someone out and take the game should they not respect the Daze. With the probe it feels like I rarely care about the life and will be able to play optimally with the extra information. In addition to this I have a very shallow selection of powerful cards and by effectively reducing my deck to 39 cards with the Probe I increase the creature count without reducing the power level of the deck. It is probably right to pay two life (unless against an agro red deck) to Probe on turn one in the hope you draw one of your good one drops as they can be so swingy.

I mentioned Masticore and Cursed Scroll being extra good due to the mana generation of Grand Architect however they are plenty good in their own right. The other mana saving and generating artifacts in the deck also improve these cards by freeing up mana to get more activations. The two cards also compliment each other well in that they both offer direct damage however one is large late game damage and the other is cheaper one off pot shots. Blue has very little direct damage of its own and although you play bounce and steal effects to offset this it is still best to have a rounded selection of answers and in the case of Scroll and Masticore usually more efficient as well. Not only do they provide redundancy to your anti-creature arsenal they also bolster the effectiveness of your evasive dorks by giving you even greater reach but from an alternate source thus making it harder to defend against all fronts. The Scroll makes Trinket Mage really worth it as you need a powerful problem card like it or Skullclamp as well as the more dull but highly useful mana sources to push the Grey Ogre to abusive power levels. The Masticore also has its other perks byond being an artifact source of damage and that is simply that it is a very hefty dork you are very happy to send into the red zone. Blue has little in the way of fat and this is the best fit for the deck by quite some distance.

Molten-Tail Masticore
Two final mentions of strong cards in the deck are Looter il-Kor and Riftwing Cloudskate which both perform very well in this kind of deck. Although blue has gotten some impressive one drops and the powerhouse of Snapcaster recently it is still rather lacking in two drops. Either they are pure utility dorks and apply very little pressure on their own or they, like Snapcaster, require other conditions to be usefully cast. This list has both Gilded Drake and Phantasmal Image on two which are rarely things you want to cast on turn two. Both of these dorks are good to lay on turn two regardless of the game state and won't diminish in value if you are only playing them to be mana efficient like a Snapcaster or Spellstutter Sprite would. Neither offer much pressure and may seem very similar to making a Waterfront Bouncer in terms of improving your board position or tempo. It turns out this is far from the case but for fairly different reasons. The Looter nibbles away at their life total while giving you far improved odds of curving out smoothly and having the appropriated answers. He seems to slowly gather a momentum for the deck while never becoming weak himself as the game progresses. He is a pest to play planeswalkers against and is rather scary as a threat when your life total gets into the single digits. The Riftwing Cloudskate is just a great all round body and effect for this deck that is worth the wait for his lovely suspend cost. Another royal pain for planeswalkers to cope with and a significant tempo swing on the turn it arrives, especially as you have spare mana to do other things in the same turn. Late game it is still fine to cast at five for more immediate effect but it is primarily in the deck because it costs two and allows for better curving out while offering bounce and evasion to compliment and offer redundancy to much of the rest of the deck.

Thursday 14 February 2013

Mono Green Control

Sylvan Library
Mono green control is one of my favourite archetypes mostly because it is all so pretty it makes playing with the cards that much more enjoyable. I have also just re-sleeved my cube which took six man hours of labour and seventy of my hard earned pounds and it has been fully worth it. I must take my hat off to the previous sleeves which have been on my cube for nearly ten years and saw tournament use prior to that and were still integral for the most part, just very very dirty. I have a fondness for mono colour decks because they are more challenging to build and are less likely to lose you games purely through mana issues. I am always trying to get new mono coloured archetypes, particularly for those colours with very few ways to go about making a viable mono cube deck. Green has for a long time been the colour with the fewest ways to go mono with Elves being the only tier one deck, and a very hosable one at that. Stompy or mono green agro if you prefer has never been better than a tier two deck which leaves only mono green ramp and mono green control. Both these archetypes have a lot of overlap both in cards used and in how they feel to play. The ramp version is more capable of winning games against tier one decks but is far less consistent and quite vulnerable to things like counter magic. Mono green control is a very consistent deck and has far less vulnerabilities and inabilities than other mono green decks however it has never really been better than tier 1.5 in the many years I have been trying to get it to work.

Birthing PodGreen has had an influx of interesting and versatile cards over the last few years making me convinced I can get a tier one build with a mono green control deck. I have tried many variations, ones abusing Life from the Loam for card advantage, ones trying to abuse Birthing Pod, some without many dorks at all, some trying to disrupt mana bases and even some that looked like tame ramp decks. This list is my most recent attempt and it felt by far and away the best version despite not really having any specific theme. As mono green control is not an archetype to have ever existed in a constructed tournament format there are no pre existing designs and so I have no real framework to start my build from. The trial and error method of testing is somewhat slow, especially in a diverse format like the cube. I am not entirely sure what it was about this list that made it feel so much more effective and powerful than previous ones as all its cards have seen play in previous mono green control decks and were fine and did their thing but didn't in any way leap out and say they are the key to making this archetype work. If I am honest I was building this deck more to look sexy than to be pure win. You can't really set out to build an archetype like mono green control and expect to be winning the event with it but you can feel extra good about it if you do.

This list was creature heavy as far as previous mono green control decks I have built go. I decided to include a Birthing Pod however not worry to much about making the most out of it. One of the Pod versions I did of this deck had a fairly deep creature chain from two up to seven and was really invested in getting value from the Pod however this really weakened the deck and made it more like a combo deck with no way of finding your combo card. You would get lots of awkward hands with too much high end and die to the first bit of tempo or disruption to come your way. The Pod in this deck was much more of a utility card than a win mechanism, I was planning on using it to shuffle my library, get card advantage and tutor up the odd answer dork with it rather than chain up into abusive fatties. This meant I would mostly be saccing the cheaper dorks in the deck and needed the most creatures in the two and three slots. The high creature count with an emphasis on cheaper utility dorks made the deck like ripe for a Skullclamp which goes a really long way to covering your card draw needs which green otherwise struggles with. Ohran Viper and Harmonize are some of greens better card advantage cards of which I felt I needed neither because of the viable Skullclamp and the high number of come into play effect dorks to supplement and fuel it. 

Wood Elves
Moving away from specifics about this list until after you have read it and back to the idea of mono green control as an archetype. As a control colour green doesn't have much disruption nor does it have much card advantage both of which are important in a control strategy. If you try and mimic other colours and how they contribute to a control strategy you will just end up with a really weak control deck with Harmonize instead of Fact or Fiction and Nevinyraal's Disk where your Wrath of God should be. You need to play to the strengths of the colour to be able to make a good deck out of it in whatever style of deck you are going. For green the thing it does best that you also want to be doing in control is increasing its available mana. Green has so many ways to get more mana efficiently that it should be your main way of winning games. In classic blue based control mirrors it is often thought that games are won in an attrition war over card advantage which is mostly true however you can also win an attrition control war with a mana advantage in much the same way. With the blue control decks generally making one land a turn and having a high land count means card advantage equates into a mana advantage and so you can look at it in either terms. As you are unlikely to win a card advantage war with a mono green deck against a control deck of other colours you should aim to really win the mana war while having cards to exploit that abundance. This means playing cards that you can usefully sink mana into to gain you some advantage but it also means you can much more easily afford to have a much higher mana curve than other control decks. Although green doesn't have great ways to deal with creatures and no way to effect peoples libraries, hands or the spells they cast and therefore qualifies as light on disruption green can deal with all other non-creature permanent types quite efficiently. With the number of artifacts, enchantments and planeswalkers decks play varying wildly you cannot really abuse an ability to remove them in green as you cannot play more than a couple of such effects in a main deck. All decks however make use of lands which green can also deal with fairly effectively and so you are more able to load up on some land removal cards. This not only gives you some effective and reliable disruption but has a great deal of synergy with your ramping to get a mana advantage. You do not need to play land disruption but without it you are basically an auto lose to decks like storm.

Yavimaya Elder
The other strength of green is really good quality dorks which provide most of your utility, card advantage, defence and threats. Green is far less afraid of tempo starts from agro decks than other colours as it is easily able to get a decent presence on the board. Green also needs worry less about dedicating slots to finishers as it generally has enough utility dorks to finish off games. While I said I have done versions with very few creatures I think they are inherently worse as they are not utilising one of greens main strengths to the best extent. My reasoning was to be more secure against mass removal which can be rather ruinous however it meant I was overly threat light and as such vulnerable to the removal and counter magic of other control decks. A better solution is to play primarily dorks which get you value upon casting or death so you are not losing as much to creature removal. The basic aim of the deck is therefore to focus on obtaining a mana advantage so as to cast higher powered spells and abuse abilities and effects from mana sinks. Then over power your opponent when they are feeling the strain of the mana disparity with your accumulated utility and value dorks.

Joraga Treespeaker
24 Spells

Joraga Treespeaker
Llanowar Elf

Wall of Blossoms
Sylvan Library
Elvish Visionary
Viridian Emissary

Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary

Eternal Witness
Wood Elves
Elvish VisionaryYavimaya Elder
Viridian Shaman

Dungrove Elder

Birthing Pod
Molten-Tail Masticore
Garruk Wildspeaker
Master of the Wild Hunt

Primal Command
Plow Under

Primeval Titan
Green Sun's Zenith
Primal CommandHurricane

17 Lands

Treetop Village
Dryad Arbour
Tranquil Thicket
14 Forests

Other cards I considered

Beast Within
Masked Admirers
Solemn Simulacrum
Thrun, The Last Troll
Llanowar Mentor
Chancellor of the Tangle

Wall of Blossoms
The observant reader may have noticed this is a 41 card list which is not a mistake but in fact something I do fairly frequently. I appreciate the logic behind having the smallest library possible so as to increase the average power level of your deck however there are other factors in play worth consideration. I have a memory of talking about this before but I can't be bothered to find out where and its relevant so you can have it again. Sometimes 16/40 land isn't enough but 17/40 land is too many. There are several solutions to this problem using things like cycling lands or Gitaxian probe to smooth the ratios however one solution is simply to play 17/41 lands. This is much more relevant in 40 card decks than with 60 card decks however in normal block limited formats the difference in power between you 23rd and 24th cards is usually pretty big, and the difference to the 1st card in your deck is a complete joke. In the cube this is not at all the case and all your cards are really powerful, it is a case of picking the most appropriate much more than the most powerful. Because of the power difference in block limited you rarely see the 41 card trick to smooth mana ratios however in cube it is far more acceptable and seen much more often (almost always by me...). The last cards I added were Wall of Blossoms and Tranquil Thicket which may seem quite odd given what I was just saying about mana ratios. I could have tinkered around with those two cards and had a 40 card deck with the correct number of lands however with the Birthing Pod the rations of not only your creatures but their converted mana costs as well also becomes highly relevant and to get that right as well as the land ratio I had to go to 41 cards.

Dryad ArborGreen Sun's Zenith is a decent card in this deck having decent synergy with the dorks included for Birth Pod as well as scaling well with your ramping. Without the Dryad Arbour trick it is pretty weak early and although I don't really like either card I had seen them used to good effect recently and felt compelled to give them another chance. I don't like wasting land drops on things that can be killed with and damage or creature kill spell and so if you draw the Dryad Arbour at any point it starts to look bad, worse for the lack of card quality and filtering in green. The addition of Skullclamp and the newest Masticore helped to make drawing the Dryad more palatable and Having Dryad makes the Zenith go from OK to really good. Again, I don't like adding risky or weak cards simply to power up other spells but the Dryad never hurt me and the Zenith was fantastic so the jury remains out for now.

Primal Command is a nice all round card for this deck, it gives longevity to your Birthing Pod and acts as an alternate win condition through being able to deck people in the really long games. It is just a two for one in some situations while in others it is redundancy for Plow Under or your life gain effects. Genesis is your late game security and a great mana sink. He isn't exactly a value monster in play but is still quiet large and annoying and gets the job done in play almost as often as he does from beyond the grave (or at least in it). The Pod and discard outlets make Genesis much better and having him in your deck makes you far less needy of other long term late game things to be doing. I wanted at least one good dork at six so as to make Pod and Genesis that little bit better and the Titan fit the bill best offering card advantage and quality on a decent body although Wurmcoil Engine would likely have been fine there too. It is more important having a big fat threat and it being on six that actually what it was in the end.

Viridian Emissary made the cut over Sakura-Tribe Elder because it is better with Pod and Clamp. Yavimaya Elder go the spot usually taken by Ohran Viper for the same reasons as Viridian Emissary. More immediate and reliable cards in hand also works much better with Molten-Tail Masticore. Dungrove Elder is a bit of a do nothing but is still pretty good in the deck. You cannot have too many slots given up to guys that serve only one purpose or offer no value beyond being a dork. Thrun, the Last Troll is in much the same boat and while being a good value threat, he is just a threat. Dungrove is better than Thrun against faster decks and scales well with the ramp effects in the deck but is not at all a necessity in the deck nor a card that is not without good alternatives.

Molten-Tail Masticore
Master of the Wild Hunt and new Masticore  are both a little harder to get value from as it doesn't always happen when they resolve or die and are primarily just threats however they each do important other roles beyond this that Dungrove Elder does not offer. Green as we know is bad at killing dorks yet Master of the Wild Hunt for some reason acts like a red creature and can really lend a hand in this regard. He is also pretty much a planewalker when the game has stalled out and will win it for you in the end. I would almost always play Master of the Wild Hunt in green because he is both a very high power level and able to offer you something you struggle to get elsewhere. Masticore is a more extreme version of the Master, he can get killy right away if you have the mana and is more durable. On the flip side however he does not slowly power you up but rather steadily drains your resources and is therefore not such an auto include in a deck. You need a good number of dead dorks to use as ammo to make him worth playing as well as ways of keeping up with the discard costs as well as the mana to really abuse him. With this being a mono green control deck the latter can be assumed, with this being a Clamp and Pod version the former can be assumed as well. With Genesis and Yavimaya Elder and the Skullclamp I felt fine for having the cards to discard and overall qualified to abuse Masticore. Suffice it to say that Masticore was highly unfair, often just popping up and burning someone to the face for 12 ending the game on the spot. When he wasn't winning games in short order he was saving me from the clutches of death against all manner of creature based assaults. One of the best cards in this list but sadly not always a card you can play and when you do so needs to be done with careful building.

Plow Under
Plow Under is everything your trying to do, it is card advantage, mana advantage and savage disruption. With the ramp you play it is one of the high powered spells you are poised to abuse best. Sadly green has lots of great five drops with Genesis and Primal Command performing important roles and Thragtusk being unreasonably good and so it is hard to always get the Plow into the deck but it never disappoints when you do. Hurricane is an old school gem that does a lot of work in the deck and is well worthy of a slot. With your good defensive dorks, life gain and mana production it is an impressive finisher. On top of this it acts as removal for all the thing you hate the most - flying creatures. Not to mention the fact that it can kill off planeswalkers too. In the dream situation you are killing multiples permanents of theirs and nothing of yours thus getting tempo and card advantage alongside killing dangerous things.

The cards I didn't play are all excellent green control cards but in this list I felt other cards were more suitable or more necessary to what was going on. The Simulacrum is great but really just doing what your Wood Elves are doing but slower and more importantly in a slot where you can get a lot more power, in not as much value, for your mana. Thrun is one such card but apparently I was in the mood for Dungrove Elder and that was all I had room for in that department. Beast Within is a great great all round card that makes you feel incredibly safe however if you can get away without having to play it you will be better off for it and I was feeling greedy. With my Hurricane, Masticore and Master of the Wild Hunt I was not so afraid of dorks and it turned out just fine without the Beast Within safety net.

Dungrove Elder
Masked Admirers are a bit like Genesis in a way and while offering some advantages over him are overall worse in a deck with a selection of one off utility dorks. I did rather want another four drop as you can see from the number I still had on my short list however none quite made the cut and two (for Birthing Pod purposes) seemed sufficient if not optimal. With more tutor effects than normal as well I was less eager to have redundancy in the effects I most wanted. The final card I wanted to play but couldn't make work was the Chancellor who offers a surprisingly useful and strong body along with a nice early tempo boost. At seven however he is not something I will be reliably Podding into off a poorly supported chain from 4 upwards nor is it something that would be doing a lot for you turns two to about turn five. This list was also lighter on two drops than most of mine making his mana perk less useful.

This archetype is good fun, pleasantly different and surprisingly competitive. This list in particular performed significantly better than any other previous attempt and seems like a good starting basis to work with. I suspect the middle ground approach worked strongly in my favour as it means you have less niche support cards and more high power level things which is of particular importance when you are not expecting to draw lots and lots of cards. A big part of how you get ahead is a significant increase in card quality from your library as you thin out the lands within it. This obviously happens to a lesser extent if you have low powered or dead non-land cards in your deck.

Tuesday 12 February 2013

Testing Gatecrash Boros

Boros Reckoner
This is sort of the same idea behind the evolve.dec and the extort.dec I did however they were more about the mechanic and finding out how that worked in cube and with what. This deck was more specifically about the cards and not the battalion mechanic which is fairly easy to assess and has no beneficial reason to be stacking it. Essentially this list is just a vessel that can sensibly contain as many of the new cards I want to test in the cube environment as possible. Basically this is a white weenie deck splashing red rather than a Boros deck wins deck although the difference is minor. To my mind anything with the "Deck Wins" suffix should be winning with inevitability and should contain a good amount of reach while anything with the "weenie" suffix is much more small creature based aiming to win quickly with an overwhelming tempo swarm.  Using such a safe core for my deck as the powerful and consistent white weenie I was able to pack a fair number of disjointed  and lower power cards into the list without making it too weak to give good games in the cube.

Boros Elite24 Spells

Mother of Runes
Student of Warfare
Champion of the Parish
Elite Vanguard

Boros Elite
Figure of Destiny
Chain Lightning
Path to Exile

Land Tax
Gideon's Lawkeeper

Lightning Helix
Boros CharmBoros Charm
Loyal Cathar
Precinct Captain

Honour the Pure
Knight of  the White Orchid
Daring Skyjek

Frontline Medic
Boros Reckoner
Hellriaser Goblin
Ajani, Caller of the Pride

Elspeth, Knight-Errant
Hero of Bladehold

Aurelia's Fury
Hellraiser Goblin
16 Lands

Boros Garrison
Clifftop Retreat
Arid Mesa

Battlefield Forge
Sacred Foundry

8 Plains

Legion LoyalistI probably should have played a Legion Loyalist as well to give it a good whirl but I was light on red and haven't picked one up yet so never mind. I think it will excel in goblins more than a deck like this where lots of your dorks already have first strike and most are too small for trample to be relevant. As this is obviously a sub par list of a well understood archetype I am only going to talk about the new cards and how I am finding playing with them different to my initial thoughts on the cards.

The Daring Skyjek is fine filler and much like other fine tempo two drops with one toughness. I don't really see him getting much more play than this however as battalion is not something that gets better the more you have (although it does make it more effective playing more supporting cards to go with them) nor is it a card that enhances your other cards. Not much change from my initial thoughts on this one and so he will sit in the C cube taking up space and doing little else. The Boros Reckoner I never saw so am no better informed than I was, although slightly more curious as other people seem to be getting a bit over excited about the card.

Frontline Medic
Frontline Medic did not impress and is not looking good for keeping an A cube slot. The best thing about him was that he is a 3/3 for which if you just wanted something fat we could find many better cards. Blade Splicer was always what I was wishing it was. It is so easy to turn off battalion that any attacks you set up assuming you can swing in carefree with indestructible guys end up not happening and costing you tempo. This is probably also a facet of incorrect play from me but it is still a danger associated with this sort of effect. I think just not quite good enough on his own and just too unreliable and underwhelming when used with other dorks.

Boros Elite was a card I was fairly brutal to in the review but was persuaded to try out based on its performance in a mates pre-release deck... While a card may be good in sealed deck it is a far cry from making it cube material. I was overly harsh in my initial review and now rate the little fella as playable but not amazing. When good he is very good but when bad he is very weak. You have to have lots of dorks and a cheap deck to really abuse him and have good odds on the busted starts. The problem is this makes him less viable in many of the slants on his only archetypal homes. As such I rate him below Savannah Lions overall despite him being a good amount better in perhaps two specific decks, those being human/soldier themed ones and the super swarmy cheap creature builds of white weenie and Boros Deck Wins. The best comparison of the kind of card it is would be Steppe Lynx which is somewhat better, both for having more powerful synergies and also for being slightly better however they are both cards that are brutal when good and terrible when not. Savannah Lions while more comparable in power level is a different kind of one drop that is far more consistent, never broken but never a disaster.

Aurelia's Fury
Boros Charm failed to excite much, it sat in my hand lots wishing it could in some way take out dorks and the one time it was actually useful it suddenly allowed me to win the game in a selection of different ways. This also does not bode well for the A cube life of this spell as it had to be an auto include in RW agro decks and has so far not lived up to this at all. Hellraiser Goblin did however impress me and this seems like quite a good deck to play him in despite me originally thinking it could only work well in combination with fatter dorks that you might find in a RG beats deck. Haste is something that works very well indeed with battalion and is not something white weenie decks are used to. Having to pre-emptively use Mother of Runes before combat might sound tedious but then getting to use Mother when she comes into play on the other hand sounds really naughty. Another very naughty white card who shouldn't be allowed haste is Hero of Bladehold however just throwing down more one drops and sending everything sideways was highly satisfactory and got the job done in short order. Either the Goblin got killed or he ended the game in a turn or two.

The final new card I managed to cram into this list was Aurelia's Fury which is a curd I really didn't like at first condemning it to a live fit only for standard. This is very much not the optimal deck for the card to shine in however it performed well for me. I had to kill a Grim Lavamancer with it in my turn three once while behind in tempo which at the time felt so awful with me wishing it was an Arc Trail however it was a winning play in that instance and in many others it performed much more than you could get out of an Arc Trail. While it was rarely abusive when I used it it was never dead and never straight up bad and that goes a really long way in a card, even Black Lotus is straight up bad now and again. When you do rip it off the top in the late game it has a good shot of ending it there and then and so it probably will earn an A cube spot and be ranked a little below Lightning Helix but above Ajani Vengeant. The more limited the format the more the card will shine and the fact that it performed well in an agro deck in basically a constructed format gives it a really good chance of being outstanding in midrange and control decks.

Tinker Reanimate

TinkerReanimator is a deck that can be done with many different slants, in fact almost all of the cheat in creature style combo decks including Oath of Druids, Sneak Attack, Show and Tell, Tinker, Goblin Welder, Natural Order, Living Death, Recurring Nightmare and even to some extent Flash have some overlap with the other methods. As you only have one of each of the key cards it is often best to take two or so of the methods and use cards that work well with all of them. This gives you a more consistent combo deck and doesn't restrict your card choices that much. I have already done a reanimator list which was three colours and used Goblin Welder and Recurring Nightmare on top of the usual reanimator package. This deck is just two colours and, as per the title, goes with Tinker. It also has a Living Death somewhat jammed in as more of an answer card than any thing else. The other list I did could also have played Tinker however it would have been fine rather than good. This list has many more targets for it to get and win with as well as a higher artifact count for ease of sacrificing to make the Tinker option at least as good as the Reanimate ones.

Exhume27 Spells

Mana Crypt
Mox Opal
Chrome Mox
Mox Diamond

Sensei's Divining Top
Chromatic Star
Vampiric Tutor

Cabal Therapy
Inquisition of Kozilek

See Beyond
Dimir CharmDemonic Tutor
Talisman of Dominance

Baleful Strix
Dimir Charm

Frantic Search
Thirst for Knowledge

Living Death

Myr Battlesphere
Sundering Titan
Sphinx of the Steel Wind
Thirst for KnowledgeInkwell Leviathan

13 Lands

Seat of the Synod
Vault of Whispers
City of Traitors
Ancient Tomb

Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Polluted Delta

Underground Sea
Underground River
Watery Grave
Sunken Ruins

Dimir Aquaduct

Sundering TitanI'm not going to drone on too much about this list or the archetype as the main purpose of this post is to start to give some depth to the various top archetypes in the cube. I have always found comparing deck lists that are trying to do much the same thing within the same format to be rather educational. Because of the inclusion of certain cards you can easily see why others have been included and can appreciate many of the strengths of the various cards without having to do the testing yourself. This is most useful from something like a Pro Tour where the various decks are typically well tested by good players but also often in isolation. I probably would have played both a Snapcaster Mage and a Brainstorm (over the See Beyond) if I had access to them but they were in other people's decks. The list was rather tight as it is with a relatively risky mana base and very little in the way of solution cards. There are loads of cards like Worship that this list can't beat which makes for a very consistent deck in goldfishing but never quite so robust in actual play. I tend to prefer having a safer clunkier deck but with this sort of archetype (something trying to kill fast) neither is always right. I am not sure what I would take out for the Snapcaster let alone for some solution cards like Cyclonic Rift.

I played Cabal Therapy to enhance the playability of Living Death but also because it is a good card to deal with things you know you can't beat. The Baleful Strix was one of the more luxurious cards but worked well with the Therapy as well as all the artifact syenrgy cards and provided a good bit of early safety. It is just one of those cards that is so good you feel wrong not playing it. Dimir Charm was also filling a disruption slot in the deck but also making up for a slight lack of ways to put things in the graveyard. With not looting effects or Careful Study the least consistent aspect of this deck is getting a dork to Reanimate in the bin early enough. Dimir Charm can help out in this respect if needed while providing a decent array of other disruption and protection abilities. The only other cool thing to note about the deck is how brutal the Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth is in combination with Sundering Titan. Not only does it protect all your own swamps but allows you to snipe out any land you like from your opponent including non-basics.

Wednesday 6 February 2013

Global Ruin 5cc

Fire // Ice
Five colour control is one of the most variable decks going. This is unsurprising as it is all five colours and can pack basically whatever it wants. Typically 5cc is very threat light and wins by grinding people out and having an answer to everything you can throw at it. As such it tends to play an engine which can perpetually gain advantage for it. These can be Genesis based engines or Squee ones which there is quite a lot of over lap between. In this list I have used the Life from the Loam engine that many slow decks incorporate. 5cc does not need an engine and sometimes just runs a synergy package in its place which could look something like Zuran Orb, Balance and a Trinket Mage with a few other trinkets to search up as well. I have seen lots of 5cc control decks becoming heavily based in one colour which is fine if it is green or even blue however if it is any of the other three I think it is best to just go three colours. I like to keep non green and blue double colour requirement spells to an absolute minimum. In this list I have even managed to avoid double blue cards but on other occasions I have played Cryptic Command and been glad of it.

VindicateVery few cards are auto includes in 5cc, the ones that are probably only has Vindicate, Fire / Ice, Pernicious Deed, Eternal Witness and Sensei's Divining Top within their ranks. All other options are dependant on your specific build and then the meta if you have information. The only things that can be said to be common across all 5cc control decks are a desire for these few cards, few win conditions, slow card advantage engines and an abundance of answers. They generally have a lot of gold cards as they have access to all of them effectively and gold cards tend to be slightly more powerful to offset the casting restrictions. As such it fills up on the most powerful and suitable gold cards for which RtR block is providing an abundance.

When playing 5cc I like to be able to vastly impact the board in all manner of ways so as to stop those tenacious decks from recovering as they so often do. I also like to be able to abuse the fact that I have domain. For non Zoo decks there are not that many exciting Domain cards with the exception of Global Ruin. The inverse Sundering Titan leaves you with five lands in play and them with an average of less than two. It kills of all non-basics and works very well in combination with the Life from the Loam engine. You can go all out and combine it with Collective Restraint but I see little need with a wealth of good removal at your disposal. Global Ruin basically only works in this deck and so really doesn't deserve a slot in the A cube however it is my favourite way to build this deck as it is more proactive than most other incarnations. I shall try and give some good examples of 5cc that look highly different to this and explain why that is the case in time but for now this serves as a fine poster boy for the archetype.

Birds of Paradise
23 Spells

Birds of Paradise
Swords to Plowshares
Noxious Revival
Noble Hierarch

Sensei's Diving Top

Fire / Ice
Snapcaster Mage
Life from the Loam
Abrupt Decay

Sensei's Divining TopNegate
Arcane Denial
Baleful Strix

Eternal Witness
Pernicious Deed

Gifts Ungiven
Garruk Wildspeaker
Ajani Vengeant

Global Ruin
Primal Command

Merciless Eviction
Bonfire of the Damned
Pernicious Deed
17 Lands

Tranquil Thicket
Lonely Sandbar
Stirring Wildwood
Celestial Colonade

Misty Rainforest
Verdant Catacombs
Windswept Heath
Polluted Delta

Tropical Island
Breeding Pool
Underground Sea

Volcanic Island

Global RuinOther builds of 5cc without Global Ruin will use just Bird of Paradise or even no mana critters at all in favour of cards like Sakura-Tribe Elder and Nature's Lore. Obviously ramping lands when you are going to reset your count to five is not ideal and so the critters cover you here. Gifts Ungiven is very potent in the deck but assures it's slot in this list because of the Life from the Loam synergy. Most of the time you get three lands and Loam with it although it is still basically a tutor effect when you need it to be with the good redundancy in your removal suite and high number of recursion effects. Even by 5cc standards this list is rather light on win conditions. You can win with utility creatures, man lands or the two planeswalkers however they are not the best walkers for winning games on their own nor do you have many man lands as they don't survive the Global Ruin. With the Primal Command you can often find that decking people is one of your faster routes to victory... by the time you have gained complete control libraries often have few cards left in them.

Gifts Ungiven
I have been saying how dissimilar most builds of 5cc are however the mana bases tend to look quite similar. Only those with Life from the Loam tend to bother with cycling lands and those with Tribe Elder are forced to run some basics. Other than this they all have lots of the dual lands with basic land types and lots of sac lands to get them. They also supplement these with a couple of the dual man lands more often than not. The mana base is the most key thing in the deck, if you balls it up in construction or even just getting the wrong land with your sac land it will cost you games, it is the most common way this deck loses and something to be really wary of. In drafts the lands should always be picked above the spells, it may seem like taking a Tundra over a Pernicious Deed is madness but there are plenty of things that while not as good fill in for Deed well enough and still leave you with a solid deck. If you don't get an outstanding mana base you won't be casting your Deed so having it isn't all that helpful. It is a risky deck to try and get in most forms of drafting as the lands are also good picks for most other people and should they get wind of what you are doing will take them before you can get all the ones you want. In a field full of one and two colour decks it is a beating, especially the Global Ruin version, but as people move into three colour decks the lands dry up too fast. You cannot really run this deck of pain lands, filter lands and M13 lands and should go three colour yourself if it is all you have. The Vivid land cycle is an acceptable replacement for a lack of sac, shock and original dual lands if they are available to you but as yet they are the only other lands suitable to reliably power a five colour deck like this, even if it has been careful to only have single colour requirements for most of the colours.

You want some access to counter magic or hand disruption on top of any mana base disruption and other removal you might have. Generally you are not at all worried about things that become permanents as you can easily dispatch with those however some instants are annoying and some sorceries are devastating making it well worth playing some insurance against them. In this build I favour counter magic over discard as blue is easier to get and discard has less synergy with land destruction. Despite wanting some you want less than most blue or black based control decks. Partly this is to avoid having too many inappropriate cards in hand at any given time but also because they are not at all required in the majority of your matchups although they are not awful in them. With you card quality, tutor effects and recursion you can make just a couple of cards in your deck seem like they make up more like a quarter of your deck and so you only need a few to give you this option.

A very hard deck to play although technically quite easy to draft. Is there a land - yes, then take it, no then take the most powerful control card as a simple decision tree will get you a decent deck when not too many people are taking the good lands from you. This deck simply can't win fast nor should it try to, some control decks can't deal with the odd thing and so have to apply pressure at some stage to give you good odds of killing them before they can beat you with a problem card. This deck has an answer to everything and is so slow to get card advantage you are almost always best just efficiently dealing with what is in hand and getting back to gaining card and mana advantages over your opponent. It doesn't really have any bad match ups although is hard to play against all of them, for the best results you want to be familiar with anything you could come up against. Generally the extremely fast decks are the hardest and to beat them require aggressive muliganing to get your relevant cheap disruption. It is more often the quick combo decks over the agro decks that cause issue as the relevant disruption is often more niche and thus less catered for in your particular choice of suite. Some storm decks pose a really tough match and is another solid argument for the Global Ruin. Otherwise you simply don't have enough spells that do anything to them and they can just play at their leisure under no pressure at all until they can comfortably go off even if you had every useful disruption spell in your deck ready to cast. The Global Ruin either totally resets them or just forces them to play under time pressure so as to best avoid it.