The MagicGatheringStrat Show, Ep. 10

Section 1: This week in Standard Pauper

Section 2: Player run events

MPDC 29.03
27 April 2015
Standard · 22 Players
16 Decks · ~73% Reported
3 rounds Swiss
Top 8 playoff
Hosted by gwyned

1st heroic by kukikira
2nd Wintergreen by gwyned
T4 Mono U Scribe Combo by WujekMZK
T4 BUR.n by Yaxarell
T8 UR Control by beatnik bobby
T8 Esper Control by hero1141
T8 Deck not found** by Michelle_Wong
T8 Just a Little Touch by rremedio1

Cruise Watch: 2015
1st Place: 0 Cruise
2nd Place: 3 Cruise
3rd Place: 3 Cruise
4th Place: 4 Cruise

Lets take a look at Gwyned’s almost mono colored deck.


Standard · Aggro
2nd by gwyned in MPDC 29.03 (4-2)

4 Elvish Mystic
4 Nessian Courser
4 Nylea’s Disciple
4 Stampeding Elk Herd
4 Swordwise Centaur
3 Nessian Asp
2 Alpine Grizzly
3 Anticipate
3 Aspect of Hydra
3 Epic Confrontation
3 Treasure Cruise
16 Forest
4 Thornwood Falls
2 Evolving Wilds
1 Island

3 Sedge Scorpion
3 Ranger’s Guile
3 Plummet
3 Naturalize
2 Disdainful Stroke
1 Vulpine Goliath

I know I normally focus on mono colored decks, but this one was different. I love that Simic made the finals.

If you are going to splash for a card, why wouldn’t it be Treasure Cruise?

Now, lets look at an opening hand:

Now I want to show you the “curve”:

More like, “look out dangerous curves ahead.”

Let’s look at the next six cards:

I think these cards give you a pretty good chance of winning.

With anticipate coming up very soon and strong three drops, you have the ability to hold off any opponent until you can drop the asp.

Section 3: The League

So, if the next league is classic pauper, what will you be playing?

I really do not want to play delver. Does that mean I won’t win though? Here is the current (as of 4/29/2015) pauper metagame according to

Pauper metagame

We have: MonoBlack, Delver, Affinity, Delver Fiend and Stompy making the top 5. Also, if you add the other slightly different version of Stompy to the top 5 version, that makes Stompy #3. That is actually a lot more diverse than I had initially thought.

But I cannot go with the flow. I have to do what I feel in my heart!

Turbo Angler

4 Gurmag Angler
4 Ulamog’s Crusher
2 Simian Spirit Guide
4 Stinkweed Imp

4 Dragon Breath
2 Dragon Fangs
4 Exhume
4 Faithless Looting
4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Lotus Petal
4 Manamorphose
4 Tormenting Voice

4 Geothermal Crevice
4 Sandstone Needle
2 Sulfur Vent
6 Swamp

4 Duress
2 Electrickery
4 Ingot Chewer
3 Magma Spray
2 Pyroblast

Tobias has inspired me and I will play this till I am beaten 4 times!

Mid-Week Pauper Meta Report: April 29, 2015

gather the townsfolk art

This article courtesy Najay1 and is reprinted with his permission.

Not too much to announce other than the fact that I ranked the winners and losers this week. I had subliminally done so before, but I think putting rankings on it can create more discussion and is a bit more interesting. Enjoy, and thanks for reading!


1. W / Wu Tokens – I combined these two decks as they really are very similar, the Wu version just runs Keep Watch in order to refill its hand. They also put up very similar results. Both decks had 3 3-1s and 1 1-X, the only difference being a lone pilot of W tokens 4-0ing. Together that lets them have a combined 78% cash rate and 68.5% win rate over 9 tries. This is one of the only weekends in which a deck has had better results than Delver with a decent amount of tries. In a meta that is filled with Affinity, MBC, and Delver, this is looking like a great meta call. On which one is better, I think Wu tokens is better just because of the current lack of counters and wealth of removal. It means that it can draw you 4-5 cards pretty easily and it probably will not cost you too much.

2. Delver – Well the old favorite had another outstanding week. Again it was 10% of the meta and again it put up just insane results. It had a cash rate of 58% and win rate of 60.5%. I’m not really sure how much I can say about this deck other than wonder why people stopped playing it. It had a few rough weeks at the start, but it has been back dominating the field. If you want to win, there is no other better option than Delver right now.

3. Rogue Players – Boros Kitty & WW & W Metalcraft – Almost every other top deck had either a bad or mediocre weekend (Stompy, Goblins, and UR Fiend all in the mediocre camp). The reason for it was that many rogues took up a lot of wins. Quick run of the numbers: Boros Kitty with 75% cash and 64.5% win in 4 tries; WW with 100% cash and 75% win in 2 tries; and UR Fiend Control with 33% cash and 58% win rate (the worst of the 3). A ton more decks had 33% cash rates as well. Despite Delver having the best records, this meta is not solved in any way. These results show that there is still room for success with rogues.



1. Esper Fae Combo – Oh how the mighty have fallen. From cries of bans to its current performance. 12.5% cash rate and 30% win rate. Yes, those are correct. The numbers on Esper Fae really beg the question of why it has suddenly become so bad. I do have a theory although. I had great success against Esper Fae before the banning with Affinity, it just had a quicker clock. Once you let Esper Fae get to T5/6 it can usually just win through disruption, but now it cannot get there close to as effectively. The introduction of more aggro into the format is crushing this deck. The control matchups are much worse too as MBC is a harder matchup than Delver or UR Control. I’m starting to think that the bad results from Esper Fae are not a fluke.

2. Affinity – I’ve talked about this deck before, but it is really having trouble now that it can’t prey on all the cruise decks. It had a 25% cash rate and a 37.5% win rate. I have to assume some of their struggle is also due to the sideboards. Gorilla Shaman is a more and more common appearance whereas one basically never saw it before. In addition, many Affinity decks are budget and aren’t packing enough Hydroblasts and Pyroblasts. Interesting to note how well it did in the PCT, placing 1st and 2nd. Sad to see this deck do so badly, but I do not think it is going to get better.

3. MBC – MBC had one or two big days, but it has not managed to put enough people in the money. This week 10 out of its 25 players went 2-2. I think this has a lot to do with the fact that MBC is a pretty consistent that usually racks up a win or two, but often isn’t strong enough to just sweep the table. It had a 24% cash rate and a 44% win rate. A sign of its potential failure is that it dropped to around 13% in popularity this week from the 20% it was hovering around. Wouldn’t be surprised to see it drop a bit more.

dawn charm art

Deck to Watch For

Burn – Burn had a decent week with a 40% cash rate and 50% win rate, but the real story is that it had 10 pilots. That made it the 6th most popular deck with about 5% of the meta. Burn has not shown up this much recently, but it has been growing. With a decent showing (better than all of the more popular decks with the exception of Delver), I am not too sure why it was so popular. It does tend to prey upon MBC and Affinity, so I wouldn’t be surprised that almost free wins against the 23% of field helps. This is really a meta deck, and we’ll see if the meta continues to play in its favor.

Brew of the Week

Bant Fog by Pierakor – The deck I really wanted to talk about was the Hexproof Ramp deck that has 3-1ed and 4-0ed, but I cannot find a decklist so if you have it, give me a shout. This deck was relatively popular in the cruise days and I was intrigued to see it do so well in the PCT as cruise was one of the central cards. The success is in part due to the pilot Pierakor who has had lots of success with the deck in the past and really knows the deck inside and out. If you want to check him out, he usually streams when he plays the deck which is quite interesting. Check it out.


Thanks to Tom the Scud – check out his Facebook and his Big Fat Spreadsheet.


PCT Results

The PCT is a weekly tournament hosted on by LongTimeGone. It occurs Tuesday at 8 pm Eastern Time.


MagicGatheringStrat Bonus!

Here is the video of Pierakor rocking out with BantFog in the PCT event.

Tribal Fun in Modern #3: UB Faeries

spellstutter sprite art

Hello, and welcome to another week of Tribal Fun in Modern. This time I am going to be looking at a tribal deck that most of you probably know: Modern Faeries! Although it is a lot less prominent than its blue tribal friend Merfolk, Faeries is an aggressive yet controlling deck that can win games fast. So, here is the list.

[d title=”Modern Faeries”]

3 Creeping Tar Pit
3 Darkslick Shores
4 Mutavault
4 Polluted Delta
4 Island
2 River of Tears
3 Watery Grave
1 Tectonic Edge

3 Mistbind Clique
4 Spellstutter Sprite
3 Vendilion Clique
3 Snapcaster Mage
1 Tasigur, the Golden Fang

Instants and Sorceries
4 Cryptic Command
4 Mana Leak
2 Spell Snare
2 Dismember
1 Go for the Throat
2 Inquisition of Kozilek
2 Thoughtseize

4 Bitterblossom

1 Liliana of the Veil

1 Batterskull
2 Damnation
2 Disfigure
3 Spellskite
2 Sower of Temptation
2 Engineered Explosives
1 Tectonic Edge
1 Scion of Oona
1 Relic of Progenitus [/d]

So the deck looks like a fairly typical Modern Faeries list. Keeping with my style, I am going to give you the run-down on card choices (including what I didn’t run and why), strategy, play style, matchup and sideboarding guide, and some different versions of the deck.

Card Choices

The card choices are fairly typical. The manlands are great at any point in the game. They help the aggression of the deck and generate mana. The color requirements aren’t that intense, so the hindrance isn’t that big. The fetches, shocks, and islands are for the fixing package and [c]River of Tears[/c] and [c]Darkslick Shores[/c] are in the same boat. They are very good in the early game (mostly when we need them) and still fine in the late game.

[c]Bitterblossom[/c] should need no explanation, but if you need it then here you go. It is just SO good. Alone it will win you the game by turn 8. Once it is down, you can play a very controlling matchup since it generates attackers and blockers, with flying. The life loss will almost never be a problem (maybe in the mirror) since you will be finishing off the game relatively quickly.

3 of [c]Mistbind Clique[/c] may be a bit of a strange inclusion, but not only is it a sizable body for a very decent amount of mana, but the champion ability isn’t really even a drawback. Worst case scenario you champion a [c]Bitterblossom[/c] token, best case you can champion a [c]Spellstutter Sprite[/c] and get another counter. To seal the deal, it has flash and can allow you to [c]Time Walk[/c] your opponent and mess up their combat all in one turn. It is a bit high on the curve, and they are tricky to play with, but I only included 3 because you don’t necessarily want to see it in your opening hand due to its high cost.

And now onto one of the other very important cards of the deck, [c]Spellstutter Sprite[/c]. Again, it is great in just about every situation. Worst case scenario it acts as a chump blocker, many times it is a [c]Spell Snare[/c] and a lot of the time it is a [c]Counterspell[/c] plus a 1/1 flyer.

The [c]Vendillion Clique[/c]s are a staple in Modern. Minimum, you get a 3/1 flash flyer. And it only gets better. You can target yourself and loot a card or you can [c]Thoughtseize[/c] your opponent.

I should need no justification for [c]Snapcaster Mage[/c]. He is just so good. Snap back anything from a counterspell to hand disruption to removal all on a 2/1 flash body. It is an auto-include and the only reason that there aren’t 4-of is because of space and instant/sorcery count.

[c]Tasigur, the Golden Fang[/c] might seem like a strange inclusion, but I am trying him out in the deck (as are a lot of people). He has become an instant staple and he can really close out games fast, gaining you quick control of the game. He is like the 4th [c]Snapcaster Mage[/c] and I feel that his inclusion inclusion is fully justified by his power level, even though he isn’t a faerie.

Again I shouldn’t need justify the inclusion of [c]Cryptic Command[/c]. The most common mode is counter draw, but the other two modes are always relevant. Even though it is four mana (and {1UUU}, which shouldn’t be a problem) it still provides control and tempo, all in one card (not to mention 6 mana and a [c]Snapcaster Mage[/c]).

The [c]Mana Leak[/c]s and [c]Spell Snare[/c]s are the rest of the control/counterspell package. The [c]Dismember[/c]s and the [c]Go for the Throat[/c] are the removal in the deck. The [c]Inquisition of Kozilek[/c]s and [c]Thoughtseize[/c]s are the disruption package. It is very helpful to not only see an opponent’s hand, but also taking away their best card in hand. For the time being, I have a 2/2 split for the two.

And finally, we have [c]Liliana of the Veil[/c]. This Modern staple may be the strangest of all, but with the removal package fairly light, the sac ability can help a lot and well, the first ability never hurts. She is just another annoyance and target that the opponent has to deal with and you can always play her when you have nothing else to do. I didn’t run [c]Sower of Temptation[/c] because for 4 mana, although it is another flash faerie body, its effect usually isn’t that potent. Maybe you will snag a [c]Tarmogoyf[/c] and sometimes it helps against Twin (that is the dream at least) but it just doesn’t pay out in the end.

You would think with removal constantly in Modern and burn more prevalent than ever, at least 1 [c]Scion of Oona[/c] would be present mainboard, but I found that it was fine sitting in the sideboard. Unlike most control decks, aggro isn’t as much of a problem for us and generally the aggro deck doesn’t point burn at our creatures. As well, it is a small 1/1 body and the +1/+1 isn’t usually that relevant (maybe it boosts the [c]Bitterblossom[/c] tokens). There are countless other cards that I am not running. The particular choices for my control and removal packages are both metagame calls and I can discuss further my choices in the comments.


The strategy is a bit like any control deck. Of course skills like what and what not to counter have to be learned through experience and really can’t be explained in one paragraph. I would almost always play a [c]Bitterblossom[/c] over any counterspell. Once you have a [c]Bitterblossom[/c] out you can really just sit back and keep mana open for all of the instants and flash creatures in your deck.

As well, what to take with an Inquisition or [c]Thoughtseize[/c] is an acquired skill and heavily depends on the hand, deck, and board state but I will never hesitate to play them if I have nothing else to do that turn. Of course there are the obvious things such as activating manlands and [c]Tectonic Edge[/c] and the synergy between [c]Tasigur, the Golden Fang[/c] and delve, using Liliana efficiently (you only have 1 so use her well), and using removal effectively.

The hardest strategy unique to the deck is that of [c]Mistbind Clique[/c]. Many times it will be as simple as upkeep, champion a [c]Bitterblossom[/c] token, time walk you, then that’s the whole deal, or even just the same thing only during combat, or maybe just end of the opponent’s turn for the extra 4/4 flying body. In other scenarios, it is not that simple. Many times you have to pick between creatures on the battlefield, which enter the battlefield trigger is the best in the situation (even if that effect may not come at instant speed). Although the 4 mana is a bit steep, two of these guys in your hand can really help. This opens up for championing a [c]Spellstutter Sprite[/c] then playing your second [c]Mistbind Clique[/c] and getting another counter or the same with a [c]Snapcaster Mage[/c].

The play style is a bit like a UWX control deck, but all of your spells are on a stick. Although this might mean that you give up a bit of control over the game for a bit of board power, this makes a very potent combination of speed and control, and as I said earlier, once you get that [c]Bitterblossom[/c] out you can really just sit back on those tokens and play reactively, while still getting power on the board. I would say that anyone would like this deck (control or aggro players) but aggro player definitely won’t get the expected speed and turn three kills (and the strategy is way over their heads).

Match-Ups and Sideboarding

The matchups are similar to that of a UWX midrange deck, with a better matchup against aggro. I’ll quickly go through each of the archtypes and talk about the matchups.

Faeries have a decent matchup against Abzan. It is close to 50%/50%. You generally have answers for most of their big threats and creatures for things that leak through, so, this can leave you in a very attrition-based matchups, and since neither of the decks have a particularly good latter game (except for Abzan decks that run [c]Gavony Township[/c]). This can leave both decks on the topdeck.

Again the deck can float against a Boros Burn or RDW, but it still struggles to stabilize. In this matchup the 1 damage from [c]Bitterblossom[/c] can really hurt here. Affinity is like aggro, it can be difficult, but it is possibly with a decent hand. The hand disruption can really help with this matchup.

Tron is an interesting matchup. It’s probably 40% wins / 60% loses. The deck runs 1 [c]Tectonic Edge[/c], so if you draw that then it can really help. As well, countering their relevant fetch spells or their relevant threats, depending on their hand (again the disruption really helps here).

Twin is another fairly 50%/50% matchup. Of course there is luck on their part, will they get the combo. But also, your counterspells can really help to keep them off their combo for enough time to let you swing in for the win. Their burn is fairly irrelevant against our creatures once we get them down.

So now to the sideboard. The general space fillers to get rid of dead cards are [c]Scion of Oona[/c], [c]Relic of Progenitus[/c], and [c]Engineered Explosives[/c]. Of course some of these are bad in some matchups but all three of these cards are potent against nearly all decks.

The [c]Batterskull[/c] comes in a decent amount too, in mirrors and other control matchups and usually against most aggro decks. As well it can come in against Zoo.

[c]Damnation[/c]s are for matchups like Abzan that are very creature heavy. I’ve even tried boarding it in against aggro decks. As well it can come in against Zoo.

[c]Disfigure[/c]s come in against Twin for [c]Pestermites[/c] and against Aggro and Zoo and basically any deck that cares about 2/2s or even 3/3s.

[c]Spellskite[/c]s come in against Twin and Aggro (for the blocking) and anything else where you need to be on more of the defensive.

[c]Sower of Temptation[/c] comes in against a lot of decks that rely on creatures (Abzan, Tron, Affinity, even Zoo) and really helps against Twin.

[c]Tectonic Edge[/c] comes in against color-greedy decks and Tron.

The [c]Relic of Progenitus[/c] is for the graveyard hate. As always I had some trouble with the sideboard (I don’t get enough post-board competitive games in a week).

Your spin on the deck

This article is getting exceedingly long, so I will quickly run over the variations of the deck. You can change both the removal, disruption, and control package for whatever you feel is the best of these cards. Cuts include [c]Liliana of the Veil[/c], [c]Mistbind Clique[/c] (probably only 1), [c]Tasigur, the Golden Fang[/c], [c]Snapcaster Mage[/c] (if he really isn’t working out for you) and [c]Bitterblossom[/c] (only cut 1 at most).

You can put an extra land, mainboard [c]Scion of Oona[/c]s (as I discussed earlier, depends on your meta), mainboard [c]Sower of Temptation[/c]s, and swords (I would try [c]Sword of Feast and Famine[/c] first).

So, sorry that this week is so long. Hopefully you made it through.

Again, leave any thoughts/suggestions in the comments.

Have a great day!


Most Free Wins in Modern: Artifacts

mindcrank art

Hi all,

Artifacts in Modern are a difficult foundation to build on. Affinity is an oppressive deck in every metagame, and it requires two things:

1) Opponents play artifact hate.

2) If opponents want the artifact hate to be relevant, it must be either utterly destructive, fast, or in abundance. In the case of [c]Ancient Grudge[/c] and [c]Shattering Spree[/c], the hate is all three of these things.

Still, these artifacts are broken things. Many artifacts printed in Modern-legal sets are the same that have distorted the Vintage metagame because of Stax, the [c]Mishra’s Workshop[/c]-based prison deck: [c]Chalice of the Void[/c] and [c]Crucible of Worlds[/c] have both been highly discussed cards when the need for restriction was felt. [c]Trinisphere[/c] actually did get restricted so that people could play Magic at Vintage tournaments again.

Even without reliable access to three mana on turn one, artifacts are colorless and as such something to keep in mind when building a deck of any color of combination of colors. Some artifacts produce such a big impact on board state immediately that they warrant their own archetypes, and others have advantages that build over time. Either way, in as much as a permanent with such a bull’s eye on it as artifacts have, here are my choices for top 8 Modern artifacts that lead to free wins.

8) [c]Mindcrank[/c]
I know. Left field. It’s been fun to give the eighth slot to pieces like this, but [c]Mindcrank[/c] actually is a funny little card that sometimes is published for winning in the money. The reason it is so hard to interact with is priority. Often, your opponents have creature removal: [c]Path to Exile[/c] and [c]Lightning Bolt[/c], but once you have [c]Mindcrank[/c] and [c]Dimir Guildmage[/c] in play, they will never have an opportunity to play them until you activate the game-winning ability.

7) [c]Batterskull[/c]
This piece gains you up to 8 life per turn, and if your opponent removes the germ, then you can simply equip it to another creature. Once all your opponent’s targeted removal has been exhausted, you simply pick up [c]Batterskull[/c] at the end of his turn for three mana and begin again. Targeted artifact removal works, provided you can’t activate the bounce effect in response.

platinum angel

6) [c]Platinum Angel[/c]
She can’t be the target of [c]Abrupt Decay[/c]. She doesn’t die to [c]Lightning Bolt[/c]. Once she resolves, your opponent simply loses without playing artifact destruction, [c]Path to Exile[/c], bounce, or a string of burn spells. Well, first of all, not all decks play these things. Secondly, these things have to resolve through the drawback-less [c]Pact of Negation[/c] and counters such as [c]Condescend[/c]. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, these answers have to come within five turns or less.

5) [c]Etched Champion[/c]
I gave a significant amount of thought to the card from Affinity that deserves most to be on this list, and I think [c]Etched Champion[/c] is he. It’s true that [c]Cranial Plating[/c] and [c]Arcbound Ravager[/c] get the most attention, but without champion to channel their power, the deck would get into a lot more stalemates, especially in this day and age full of [c]Lingering Souls[/c]. Essential “protection from everything” and “+10/+0” or 10 +1/+1 counters usually end the game fairly quickly.

4) [c]Mindslaver[/c]
Upon reading the text of the card, did you notice the mistake? Look again; it’s printed on every version.

. . .

If you haven’t caught it yet, it’s that the text reads, “next turn,” it should say “for the rest of the game.” Essentially, that is what you’re doing. When you empty their hand of their resources, use their removal on their own permanents, attack into things that should never be attacked into, and give yourself a turn where they have no mana to interact, you’re controlling the remainder of the game in one way or another.

wurmcoil engine

3) [c]Wurmcoil Engine[/c]
While [c]Mindslaver[/c] is good, it didn’t get the ultimate “Tronpiece” nod over [c]Wurmcoil Engine[/c] because the latter is featured in both RG Tron and Mono U Tron. In fact, the life-gaining, deathtouching wurm is the only thread that runs through both decks, and for good reason. There is no better piece for board stability in either deck. So many games depend on whether the tron player is able to resolve [c]Wurmcoil Engine[/c], and all the opponent’s efforts thereafter are bent around negating the lifegain and winning in spite of it. Usually these efforts fail.

2) [c]Aether Vial[/c]
All your creatures have flash. And they’re free. And they can’t be countered. Oh, and this starts before your opponent can reliably counter or discard it.

1) [c]Ensnaring Bridge[/c]
Hearkening back to some of the earlier articles in this series, here is the card that makes the opponent feel most helpless while you win. It is a staple in all of the decks players build because they hate Magic and want you to as well: 8-rack, R/W Prison, and Mono White Devotion. In many Modern games, the text reads “Nothing you do matters.”

And here are my honorable mentions, just because this is such a fun topic to explore:

spine of ish sah art

HM: [c]Crystal Shard[/c]
Did you think that [c]Snapcaster Mage[/c] was broken? Well, how about his effect every turn? But then you will run out of instants and sorceries in your graveyard. Not with [c]Eternal Witness[/c]! All creatures with abilities that trigger as they enter the graveyard are that much better with [c]Crystal Shard[/c]. What’s still more fun is combining it with creatures that trigger upon entering or leaving the battlefield; [c]Aven Riftwatcher[/c] and [c]Thragtusk[/c], I’m looking at you.

HM: [c]Kuldotha Forgemaster[/c] and [c]Master of Etherium[/c]
Both of these cards give their players such reliable access to [c]Blightsteel Colossus[/c] that it is hard to exclude them from the list. Combine with [c]Lightning Greaves[/c] for best results.

HM: [c]Possessed Portal[/c]
Combine with [c]Squee, Goblin Nabob[/c] or [c]Gravecrawler[/c], and here is the gamestate. It is the best it will ever be for your opponent.

HM: [c]Thorn of Amethyst[/c]
I love this card. I wanted to put it in the top 8. The “symmetrical” effect is the same as [c]Thalia, Guardian of Thraben[/c], and I would argue that Thorn is way less likely to be interacted with. Stuff four into the sideboard of your Elves and Goblins lists, and get some free wins.

HM: [c]Torpor Orb[/c]
I decided to avoid hate cards that get free wins in certain matchups such as [c]Relic of Progenitus[/c] and [c]Damping Matrix[/c]. These are not “free wins” as much as “free prevent your opponents from winning” ([c]Ensnaring Bridge[/c] is the exception because of its greater scope). Still, [c]Torpor Orb[/c] is interesting because it hates a tier one strategy, hates a number of lower tier strategies (Soul Sisters), and enables an archetype on its own. The problem is that [c]Eater of Days[/c] and [c]Hunted Horror[/c] are not adequate yet for the archetype to be worth considering.

HM: [c]Spine of Ish Sah[/c]
All of the colorless cards that are not artifacts were left off the list: [c]Karn Liberated[/c], the Eldrazi, and [c]All is Dust[/c] were easier unmentioned. For what Karn usually does upon arrival, though, [c]Spine of Ish Shah[/c] is as good. Combine with [c]Krark-Clan Ironworks[/c] and [c]Trading Post[/c], two other cards worth noting here, and you have yourself a real destructive engine.

So are these the artifact cards most likely to land you in the winners bracket throughout the rounds? Well, honestly, I think so! Enjoy the free rides!


Fan of History episode 11, 909-900 BC; Assyrian Aggression

Adad-Nirari II starts off the Neo-Assyrian Empire. These are the 3rd to 12th year of the empire, featuring battles with the Arameans, the kingdom of Sukhu and with Babylon itself.

We also get to meet the mysterious Nok culture of Africa.

World Politics 1000BC global overview:…

MagicGatheringStrat: The Podcast Ep. 9

This week we get all up in Paupers Grill! Standard Pauper! Classic Pauper! Bears and Delvers! Cube Boxes! Anglers and Scavengers! Plus the end of the Standard Silverblack league!

Brennon Sam and Dan review all this, plus a word from our glorious overlord Bava!

It’s the show, thanks for listening!
YouTube: MagicGatheringStrat (subscribe!)
Twitter: @MagicGathStrat @cyruleansayshi @Spo7677
Subscribe and Like please. It helps.

Game of Thrones Chat S05E03 High Sparrow

Dan and Thomas talk about High Sparrows, the third episode in the fifth season of Game of Thrones.

We assume that you have seen the first four seasons and all the episodes of the fifth season up to and including this one when you listen to this. Otherwise there will be spoilers.

You can find Game of Thrones Chat on itunes:

Please do not spoil anything from the books or later episodes in the comments to this podcast.
The fourth season on YouTube:
The fifth season will be published on Hard Nerd Cafe on YouTube as well as on itunes.

Talk Game of Thrones with us on Hard Nerd Cafe or

Learn more about the Fan of History on
or check out the Fan of History podcast on itunes:

Commander Corner: King Macar, the Gold-Cursed

Welcome back,

I remember a year or so back when Journey into Nyx came out, and I saw [c]King Macar[/c]. I was on a bit of a black kick at the time, and was obsessed with that color. Every deck that I built had to be running that color. I was looking for a mono-black general, but none of the previous ones appealed to me.

They were either too straightforward, like [c]Anowon, the Ruin Sage[/c] or [c]Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief[/c], or just boring like [c]Mikaeus, the Unhallowed[/c] and [c]Sheoldred, Whispering One[/c].

[c]King Macar[/c] was different though. He was unique, flavorful, and powerful. I just couldn’t seem to get him to work at the time. I decided to just leave him go and build something else. So for this week, I decided to go back, do some extensive research, and finish what I started a year ago. Lets take a look at [c]King Macar, the Gold-Cursed[/c].


He may be cursed, but his misfortune is to our benefit. I do feel bad for him though.

[d title=”King Macar, the Gold-Cursed (EDH)”]


1 King Macar, the Gold-Cursed


1 Cabal Coffers

1 Myriad Landscape

1 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx

1 Reliquary Tower

31 Swamp

1 Vault of Whispers




1 Colossus of Akros

1 Crypt Ghast

1 Darksteel Colossus

1 Darksteel Juggernaut

1 Dread Cacodemon

1 Erebos, God of the Dead

1 Geth, Lord of the Vault

1 Grave Titan

1 Kuldotha Forgemaster

1 Lord of the Void

1 Mycosynth Golem

1 Myr Battlesphere

1 Nirkana Revenant

1 Pestilence Demon

1 Platinum Angel

1 Reiver Demon

1 Sheoldred, Whispering One

1 Thopter Assembly[/d]



1 Doom Blade

1 Hero’s Downfall

1 Tendrils of Corruption


1 Consume Spirit

1 Crux of Fate

1 Decree of Pain

1 Demonic Tutor

1 Diabolic Revelation

1 Drain Life

1 Exsanguinate

1 In Garruk’s Wake

1 Profane Command


1 Greed

1 Koskun Falls

1 Phyrexian Arena[/d]



1 Blinkmoth Urn

1 Caged Sun

1 Champion’s Helm

1 Clock of Omens

1 Cranial Plating

1 Darksteel Forge

1 Darksteel Plate

1 Ebony Horse

1 Gauntlet of Power

1 Honor-Worn Shaku

1 Icy Manipulator

1 Jandor’s Saddlebags

1 Krark-Clan Ironworks

1 Lashwrithe

1 Mycosynth Lattice[/d]


Artifacts Cont.

1 Paradise Mantle

1 Puppet Strings

1 Ring of Xathrid

1 Sol Ring

1 Springleaf Drum

1 Staff of Domination

1 Strionic Resonator

1 Swiftfoot Boots

1 Sword of the Paruns

1 Thousand-Year Elixir

1 Trading Post

1 Umbral Mantle

1 Voltaic Key

1 Whip of Erebos


1 Liliana Vess


Cost: Paper = $243.36 | MTGO = 61.51 TIX

Note that the Online price does not include [c]Koskun Falls[/c] as I do not think it is on MTGO. You will have to find a replacement for that one. I recommend [c]Ring of Gix[/c] or any other card that can tap both [c]King Macar[/c] and something else.

I never thought Mono-Black Artifacts could be a thing, but here it is. This deck features a boatload of cards that are geared to work well with our commander. For most commanders, the main way of getting them tapped is by attacking. That’s not going to work out so well for ours since he is rather squishy. Four mana for a 2/3 isn’t the best rate in the world, especially in a format dominated by large creatures.

What makes him good though is his inspired ability. The ability to [c]Gild[/c] a creature whenever he untaps is great, as it can keep us ahead on mana while keeping our opponents board state in check.

We can cash in these coins for our payoff cards, our creatures. [c]Dread Cacodemon[/c], [c]Grave Titan[/c], [c]Lord of the Void[/c], [c]Pestilence Demon[/c], and [c]Darksteel Juggernaut[/c] will make short work of most opponents. They are pretty much the best at doing what they are designed to do, which is take over the game.

We can ramp into them by doubling our mana output with [c]Crypt Ghast[/c], [c]Nirkana Revenant[/c], [c]Caged Sun[/c], and [c]Gauntlet of Power[/c]. We can also make a ton of mana with [c]Blinkmoth Urn[/c] and the plethora of artifacts we have and can also generate with our commander.

In order to stabilize and be able to cast these threats, we need our commander, [c]King Macar[/c]. Many of these cards are specifically in here to abuse his inspired ability. Without him, we don’t have much in the way of interacting with our opponent outside of tapping their creatures and wrathing the board. He allows us to constantly keep their board state in check while generating enough mana via the gold tokens he produces.

These [c]Lotus Petal[/c], like tokens, will help us ramp into our larger threats and take over the game. He also enables us to use more mana intensive spells such as [c]Drain Life[/c], [c]Exsanguinate[/c], and [c]Diabolic Revelation[/c]. These powerful spells can help us gain enough life or generate enough card advantage to stick around for a while.

[c]Diabolic Revelation[/c] has been especially impressive, as long as you have enough mana to pour into it. If you do though, you pretty much just win the game right then and there, as you get to sculpt the perfect hand. Without our king, this deck wouldn’t really be possible. That being said, that leads us to one problem, if we lose him early on.

If we happen to lose our commander early on, such as [c]Song of the Dryads[/c] or [c]Darksteel Mutation[/c], things are going to be rough for us. This deck packs a ton of cards that are meant to be used with him, and without that, you’re going to be drawing a bunch of useless cards.

Having our commander turned into a forest and drawing [c]Ebony Horse[/c] and other types of cards like that for a few turns will probably end in a game loss. Since we are in black, we don’t really have ways of dealing with that. So if that happens to you, be prepared to not be doing much for a good portion of the game.

All in all, this is a fun and unique build. It takes your typical voltron approach and puts a neat little spin on it. Instead of attacking with our commander, we use him with our plethora of tap and untap effects to keep the board nice and clear so we can drop our fatties and sit on a nice stack of gold. What more can you ask for?

Thank you for checking out this weeks Commander Corner. If you have any suggestions, let me know in the comments below. Also, from now on, I will not be building any decks with the cards I discussed in my “5 Cards that Need to be Banned in Commander” article. I feel like I need to stick to my guns and set an example. Next week, we talk about something else. See you soon my friends.

-Steven Gulsby

The MagicGatheringStrat Show, Ep. 9

Section 1: This week in Standard Pauper

Section 2: Player run events

MPDC 29.02
20 April 2015
Standard · 10 Players
8 Decks · 80% Reported
3 rounds Swiss
Top 4 playoff
Hosted by gwyned

1st Formidable Green by Gq1rf7
2nd Izzet Control by beatnik bobby
T4 heroic netdeck by karakusk
T4 Jeskai Trollkens by rremedio1

Cruise Watch: 2015
1st Place: 0 Cruise
2nd Place: 4 Cruise
3rd Place: 0 Cruise
4th Place: 3 Cruise

Standard · Aggro
1st by Gq1rf7 in MPDC 29.02 (4-1)

4 Elvish Mystic
4 Nylea’s Disciple
4 Swordwise Centaur
2 Alpine Grizzly
2 Nessian Courser
2 Vulpine Goliath
1 Sedge Scorpion
3 atarka beastbreaker
3 epic confrontation
4 glade watcher
4 stampeding elk herd

3 Aspect of Hydra
2 Hunter’s Ambush

22 Forest

3 Savage Punch
2 Ranger’s Guile
2 Sedge Scorpion
2 Leafcrown Dryad
2 Hunter’s Ambush
1 Naturalize
1 Aspect of Hydra
1 return to the earth
1 dragon-scarred bear

Unfortunately, this is an approximation. Until the database is updated, I would strongly recommend (ie. begging) you post the list in the comments section of the deck page. Otherwise, I won’t be able to fully extol the virtues of your decks.

The interesting thing is that this deck took down both SPDC and MPDC this week. That is no small feat. The fact that it is mono colored makes me instantly love it!

Now, lets look at an opening hand:

Now I want to show you a thing of beauty:

Mmmm dat curve! It is so beautiful. My heart can barely stand it.

Now let’s look at the next six cards:

So, what can we say about this deck? First of all, you have blockers. The scorpion, gladewatcher and the grizzly are going to hold everything back. Also, once the grizzly hits in the ground you can attack with both watchers. The biggest issue is going to be your finisher. Those elk are far away, and if you aren’t careful, you may never see them.

Section 3: The League

Well, as you know by now, I did not win. I came in second. That’s right, I am a big number 2.

Here is my deck list:

[d title=”MonoRed Heroic by Cyrulean (Standard Silverblack)”]
4 Akroan Crusader
2 Mardu Scout
4 Monastery Swiftspear
4 Satyr Hoplite
4 Foundry Street Denizen

2 Hordeling Outburst
3 Collateral Damage
4 Titan’s Strength
3 Wild Slash
3 Dragon Mantle
4 Hammerhand
3 Lightning Strike

20 Mountain

1 Blinding Flare
2 Frenzied Goblin
1 Magma Jet
3 Scouring Sands
3 Arc Lightning
2 Humble Defector
1 Lightning Strike
2 Roast

I wanted nothing over cmc 3. and I wanted to control the board state as much as possible. I used creatures as removal just as often as I used them as my damage dealers. I rarely sent burn to the dome unless it was to finish them off or take advantage of collateral damage.

I sided out the Hordeling Outburst almost every game. I usually opted to bring in roast or arc lightning.

The finals went down like this:

Game one: Punning went up to I think 32 life off of two lands and an Ordeal of Heliod. At the end, I had him at 3 and I was at 5. I had a collateral Damage in my hand and not enough mana to cast it.

Game two: I controlled the board long enough to punch in for 20 damage rather quickly.

Game Three: The butts, they grew too big. I could not burn his heroic dudes fast enough and he over ran me.

I hope you all participate in future events. They are free and fun! Two of my favorite things.

Mid-Week Pauper Meta Report: April 22, 2015

delver of secrets art wide

This article courtesy Najay1 and is reprinted with his permission.

We are finally getting into the meat of the new meta and things are starting to fall into place.

It’s interesting that we see a lot of older decks start to rise to the top again whereas some of the new tech has fallen by the wayside. One of the major things seen this week was a large diversity of decks coming out of the woodwork and putting up a few results. Interestingly, it also caused a few favorites to not have any pilots in any of the dailies – RUG tron, MUC, and Grixis Fae Combo.

Although some things are starting to become clear, nothing is certain and I would love to see some more decks put up fantastic results.


Delver – Again with a smaller prominence than one would expect at 10.5%. It certainly exceeded the prominence as it had a 55.5% cash rate and a 61% win rate. Both of these rates are way above average, even for Delver. This is the deck that many people consider the best deck, and even though it has not performed amazing yet, I would not be surprised to see a still high win rate. Part of the high win rate is that because less people are playing the deck, a greater amount have the high ticket cards – Daze, Snap, and Hydroblast. This will push the win rate higher not only because it is the optimal build, but also because the decks that have the high ticket cards have a more experienced pilot on average (although this is a correlation and not a causational relationship) as they have spent the money to invest, there is a higher chance that they are more invested in magic and have spent more time and money playing. Although this is obviously not always true, and probably only true enough for a minor relationship, it will play an effect.

Stompy – Again the aggro giant lays as one of the top decks of the week. It has performed fantastic in the new meta and I expect it to keep up the success. This week it had a 42% cash rate and a 55% win rate. In addition, it maintained a popularity similar to Delver at 11%. This is the premier aggro deck in the format and it has really done better in the current meta than any other aggro deck. Because of this, I would not be surprised if some people started to switch over to Stompy more and more as the other decks fall out of favor.

Goblins – A classic deck that was driven to extinction with the rise of foreign cruises, I would not be surprised to see this deck continue to climb the ranks. It had a cash rate of 43% in 7 appearances with a win rate of 60%. As I talked about last week, the new additions to this deck do seem to give it a bit more reach. Mardu Scout is really the one that impacts as it can continually turn on Mogg Conscripts and Goblin Cohort along with being a 3 power threat for 2 mana with upside. Also, it gives the ability to win games where people let their guard down for one turn and it’s over. Don’t be surprised to see Goblins make a larger comeback.

kiln fiend art wide


UR Fiend – One of the decks that most recently experienced an update, it certainly has not lived up to the expectations – at least this week. It placed only 2 of its 13 entries into the cash range for a disappointing 15% and a 42.5% win rate. Now, this does include the data of UR Fiend Control decks which have been minutely popular in the past few weeks. I would not be surprised that it skewed the data a bit – but there was probably 2 to 3 copies max so it should not sway the data too much. Overall, the prominence of MBC makes this a pretty bad meta call right now. You need more creatures than they have removal spells and that is in no way the current case. I wouldn’t look for this to improve enough to keep it off the losers list.

MBC – The current king of the format in terms of popularity, it had 34 copies making up 20% of the meta. It is really the deck you have to beat in order to be successful in the current meta. It had a 29.5% cash rate and 45% win rate. It also had a massive split in its finishes. It had 10 4-0/3-1 decks, and 22 1-X/0-X decks, but only 2 2-X decks in the middle. I’m not sure what to really account for the disparity. It could be deck build or experience, and it is a large sample size, so I would assume it has to be a bit of each. In terms of the failure this week, the decks that MBC preyed upon have started to evaporate. There were only 2 Hexproof decks and 0 RUG Tron lists, both of which are easy wins for MBC. In addition, everybody knows they have to beat the list so they came prepared. It seems that it may not be MBC you want to be, but instead be MBC’s worst nightmare.

Affinity – For the meta’s second most popular deck at 12%, Affinity has not been performing up to expectations in the post-Cruise meta. I’ve talked about it before, but this deck simply lost a lot of its best matchups and will continue to underperform until Delver regains its popularity as the top deck. This week it had a cash rate of 30%, but a win rate of 52%. A lot of the discrepancy between the two comes with the fact that Affinity had plenty of decks in the 2-X range. This is common for the deck as it often will win at least one match off of a nut-draw, but then lose at least a match to mulligans. Therefore, I would expect Affinity to pretty consistently have this unusual cash rate to win rate ratio. I wouldn’t expect to see this fall out of the meta, but I also do not think it will be a top deck anytime soon unless Delver dominates in popularity.

kor skyfisher art wide

Deck to Watch For

Boros Kitty – This deck showed up in numbers this week with 8 copies across the 3 dailies – significantly more than in weeks past. Despite that, it didn’t put up amazing results with a 25% cash rate and 50% win rate. A lot of this is simply due to a small sample size and it seemed like the deck was performing nicely. It also had a top 4 finish in the PCT for additional data. This is another deck that was basically forced out of the meta by Cruise and I would not be surprised to see it come back in even larger numbers – even if it isn’t a tier 1 deck. Witch such a good matchup with MBC, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this deck perform as great MBC hate.

Rogue of the Week

UB Angler Control – By far the most interesting brews this week were the flavors of Angler coming out (there was also a Rakdos version in the PCT). I personally love this deck as it is a mystical teachings deck that runs out a more aggressive and threatening midgame. This way it can play out like a traditional control deck, but can also play the aggro role if it sees the opportunity. The ability to have a toolbox of answers along with a massive beater means that it will be rare to have the play out an Angler without massive protection. At that same point, this deck does not seem to have a fantastic matchup against MBC (like any other deck with few creatures). Despite this, I think that a very controlling toolbox build may be what it takes for Angler to come out in force again.

Dailies Data

Thanks to Tom the Scud – check out his Facebook and his Big Fat Spreadsheet.


Pauper Classic Tuesdays

These are from the weekly pauper tournament over on, it runs every Tuesday at 8 pm EST.


Tribal Fun in Modern #2: Zombie Apocalypse

zombie apocolypse art

Hello again! Time for another installment of tribal fun in Modern! This week we are going to look at Zombies in Modern. So, without further ado, here is this list:

[d title=”Zombie Apocalypse (Modern)”]

4 Cemetery Reaper
3 Death Baron
3 Grave Titan
4 Lord of the Undead
2 Vengeful Pharaoh
4 Geralf’s Messenger
4 Gravecrawler

Instants and Sorceries
4 Dismember
4 Thoughtseize

2 Zombie Infestation
2 Endless Ranks of the Dead

4 Cavern of Souls
3 Tectonic Edge
15 Swamp
2 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

3 Liliana of the Veil
3 Hero’s Downfall
2 Infest
2 Grafdigger’s Cage
3 Black Sun’s Zenith
1 Spellskite
1 Massacre Wurm [/d]

The deck runs quite well and I have found that the sideboard seems to work better than I ever thought it would have. Again, I am going to run down the card choices, strategy, play style, matchup and sideboarding guide, and some different versions of the deck.

The cards intend to provide a quick early game, crunching in a few points, then rounding out the midgame and pumping all of your zombies and playing a [c]Grave Titan[/c] then winning. The lords are [c]Cemetery Reaper[/c], the [c]Imperious Prefect[/c] of the deck, [c]Death Baron[/c], an amazing way to let you take the upper hand, and [c]Lord of the Undead[/c], a great source of card advantage.

The early game mostly consists of [c]Gravecrawler[/c]s, [c]Thoughtseize[/c]s to keep your opponents off of whatever is good in their hand, [c]Zombie Infestation[/c]s, [c]Cemetery Reaper[/c]s, and [c]Death Baron[/c]s. All of these are early threats that can be quickly deployed and by turn three you can get a lord down and start to crunch in for significant amounts of damage.

The finishers in the deck include [c]Grave Titan[/c], [c]Vengeful Pharaoh[/c], and [c]Endless Ranks of the Death[/c]. [c]Grave Titan[/c] and [c]Endless Ranks of the Dead[/c] will easily take the game over if left unchecked (and [c]Endless Ranks of the Dead[/c] is rather hard to deal with). [c]Vengeful Pharaoh[/c] is just a huge body that is even more of a pain to deal with once he is in the graveyard.

The playset of [c]Dismember[/c] is the removal for the deck.

The land base is simply some Swamps, two [c]Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth[/c] for the [c]Tectonic Edge[/c]s and the [c]Cavern of Souls[/c], a playset of [c]Cavern of Souls[/c] because they NEVER hurt in tribal against control, and three [c]Tectonic Edge[/c]s just for the land destruction.

zombie horde art

The strategy is somewhat like any other Junk or Midrange decks. Depending on your hand and whether you are on the draw or the play, the deck will generally lead with either a [c]Thoughtseize[/c] or [c]Gravecrawler[/c] into a [c]Zombie Infestation[/c] then into one of the many three drop cards in the deck. After some beatdown in the midgame, you can play one of the finishers to take over the game.

The [c]Dismember[/c]s can deal with threats but the [c]Death Baron[/c]s can really help with keeping creature threats off, especially considering all of the recursion. The [c]Endless Ranks of the Dead[/c] can just sit there and let you win. [c]Zombie Infestation[/c], although it may not seem that potent in this deck, can just allow you to pitch irrelevant cards to it to churn out zombies every turn. The deck is quite easy to pilot. Probably the hardest thing is to pick which card to take from [c]Thoughtseize[/c].

The playstyle is a bit like a slow-paced Dredgevine. The deck uses the graveyard, but it does not heavily rely on it. Graveyard hate won’t really hurt you that much. As well, the deck is fairly midrangy, with some early game aggro. The deck also has an 8-Rack feel, considering that it is mono black. As well, the deck obviously has a lot of synergy, considering that it is tribal and all. The playstyle is quite unique.

zombie infestation art

With some tweaking I feel that this deck can really be competitive. At its current state it is not quite fully polished and finished off. There are still some minor changes that could be made (I need a few more games for testing). The deck squeaked out a few wins against Abzan, generally could hold up against aggressive decks like Boros Burn, RDW and Infect, but generally has poor matchups against some combo decks (Scapeshift especially, but Twin is quite the match too) and can sometimes just run out of steam against some control/UWX midrange builds (I feel like this could be one of the tweaks by adding something like [c]Damnable Pact[/c] for the card draw) and Tron, who usually beats us to the win.

Again I’m not great with sideboards, especially in mono black. I considered splashing, but I felt in the end the life loss in lands and some other factors didn’t make it strong enough. The Lilianas are for general use. They come in against most decks.

[c]Hero’s Downfall[/c] helps to support our removal package (this is a flex spot). I usually bring these in against Abzan and Infect and anything with annoying creatures.

[c]Infest[/c] tries to stop affinity and most aggro decks. I’ll bring these in against Boros Burn, RDW, Infect, Zoo, and UR Aggro.

[c]Grafdigger’s Cage[/c] is for anything that uses the graveyard (Dredgevine, Reanimator, Living End). [c]Spellskite[/c] is for the Twin matchup and the Infect matchup.

[c]Black Sun’s Zenith[/c] is for this too, and other uses, like aggro and affinity decks. Generally I’ll bring it in against anything but control.

Finally [c]Massacre Wurm[/c] helps in a lot of slower matchups (mostly control).

endless ranks of the dead art

Starting with the sideboard, basically anything can be changed. It is a fairly mediocre sideboard and really just a starting point. Mainboard, almost all creatures can be cut to 3 of (I try to keep the early aggression at 4 of) and the finishers can be cut to 2 if the deck becomes more controlly.

[c]Thoughtseize[/c] can be lowered if you don’t need the disruption.

[c]Zombie Infestation[/c] and [c]Tectonic Edge[/c] can be cut if you don’t want to discard and/or you don’t want/need the land destruction.

If he isn’t working out for you, [c]Vengeful Pharaoh[/c] can be cut.

Some good additions include [c]Army of the Damned[/c], [c]Damnable Pact[/c] for the control-heavy metas, and splashing either blue for cantrips and [c]Grimgin, Corpse-Born[/c] and some control or green for [c]Tarmogoyf[/c], [c]Lotleth Troll[/c], and [c]Abrupt Decay[/c]. More removal could also be added to the deck.

There are lots of other edits in terms of number changes that can be made to the deck, most of which can be found through a simple gatherer search, but those are my starting suggestions.

Leave some comments and let me know what you think!

Have a nice day,

On Stephen Speck, Deck Attribution, and Identity

summer bloom art

Hi all,

Some of these thoughts have been ruminating in my head for a long time, and with this past Pro Tour lousy with controversy, game losses, and outright cheating, I wanted to share some with you. This is not an article about Modern, or even about strategy or design of Magic: The Gathering. It is more of a warning and advice about how to approach the game.

The majority of last year’s Best Movie Oscar nominees seemed to have a common thread running through them. In order to avoid spoilers, I’ll stick only to what I know from previews. In Whiplash, we have a boy who psychotically beats through his drumset during practice and breaks off from his girlfriend in order to be great. Michael Keaton’s character in Birdman wants to get back in the limelight and is driven insane by his past greatness; the character he used to play tells him to do things. The Office’s beloved Steve Carrell plays a man who, innocently enough, wants his family’s ranch to be the national wrestling team’s training site. This drive eventually corrupts him, and we see him carry a gun into a gym.

This debilitating desire seems to pop itself up in the Magic community as well.

At Pro Tour: Dragons of Tarkir, there was a lot of discussion over Patrick Chapin playing two lands in a turn and failing to resolve [c]Ajani, Mentor of Heroes[/c] correctly. He placed a creature card in his hand before placing the three other cards on the bottom of his library, and he did not reveal [c]Tasigur, the Golden Fang[/c] as the planeswalker stated he must. This has gotten a lot of discussion because Chapin is a hall of fame player, and this is a high stakes event.

What hasn’t gotten quite as much discussion is what happened with Stephen Speck. Perhaps this is because of the name disparity, or perhaps it is because the incident was not featured on camera. In fact, I only have accounts from Twitter as to what happened. Here is a vague but official statement from Wizards.

What accounts from players at the Pro Tour suggest is that Speck offered 53 cards to his opponent and had 7 cards aside ready to stack on top of the deck once his opponent finished shuffling and cutting. Where Wizards says that Speck had a “plausible” opening ready elsewhere, players present say instead that he had a “perfect” opening seven ready to go.

So while some may say, “Good, he got disqualified, and we’re all square,” we must remember that Speck has been gaining a lot of traction lately by performing well in Modern tournaments with Bloom Titan. This deck is capable of broken openings that kill the opponent on turn one, even on the draw and through a piece of disruption. Many players, including myself, have been hoping for a ban of [c]Summer Bloom[/c] because the deck breaks the fundamental Modern turn four rule. Proponents of Bloom Titan, mostly its grinders, say that winning before turn four is the exception, and it requires a god-hand.

Well, Speck had a lot of these god-hands in his career, and five of them came at Grand Prix Omaha. After reading about his disqualification, I remembered reading a GP Omaha report where a Merfolk player lost a match to Speck that guaranteed his entry into the Top 8. Here is the report of the match.

So now we have evidence that Speck is manipulating his opening hands, and he is playing a deck with 1 [c]Simian Spirit Guide[/c] that, because of the spirit monkey, can produce turn 1 kills, and we see that he was able to do this a number of times in one event.

I question this. I’m no mathematician, but I know he beat the odds.

Because the news traveled primarily via the Twitter medium, many viewed Speck’s account with tweets dating back in February. These words stood out to me the most:

“I’m about to get [The Bloom Titan] deck banned.”


Speck wanted to be the guy who took a rogue deck and broke the format with it. It’s good to be discovered, to have notoriety, and in that way, achieve a sense of fame. And when you place your sense of fulfillment, satisfaction, and even identity in such a niche aspect of a card game, some weird things are going to happen. Things may not go to plan, and your sense of self depends on cheating.


People may read this and think it’s getting a little flimsy. After all, Speck may not have cheated. There is a fraction of a percent of likelihood that, as he argued at Pro Tour: Dragons of Tarkir, the seven cards placed elsewhere while his opponent shuffled and cut his deck were “an unfortunate mistake.” Maybe no such unfortunate mistakes happened during his successful run with Bloom Titam, and maybe he never intentionally placed seven card, turn-one-game-winning hands on top of his deck.

So I’ll approach this from another angle. Have you ever looked at a Magic forum regarding a breakout deck? Often, there are a number of users that want to claim authorship of that deck. The most hostile environment like this that I can recall took place over the discussion of who created Izzet Blitz, Eye Candy, Wee Fiend, or the [c]Kiln Fiend[/c], [c]Nivix Cyclops[/c] combo deck in Pauper. Before the printing of [c]Nivix Cyclops[/c], a feeble iteration of the deck had existed with [c]Wee Dragonauts[/c] in its place. Wizards handed the community a treat, and like dogs, they scrapped for the treat at its best. There are as many people who claim to have created the deck as there are absurd titles for it.

Again, people want to be immortalized over this game. It’s a crazy good game, and there is such a community around it. But still, when a player looks for fulfillment in it, they start to act bizarre.

Players hit print screen and time stamp their posts whenever they come up with an idea. Even if the combo is fairly intuitive and an initial reaction to a card’s printing, they want to be the ones whose names are tagged beside it, and they want the name they gave the deck to be the name by which it is called. Names will be called, shots will be fired, and no one will achieve the fulfillment they desired.

The pros and content developers that actually are known for innovations teach us that it is not a goal worth aspiring to and fighting for to have your name tagged by a deck. If you follow Travis Woo on his Facebook page, you will see approximately bi-monthly musings on leaving the game, his stream, his articles, and other aspects of Magic. Conley Woods gets burned out from Magic. These are two of the most highly regarded deckbuilders in terms of innovations that the community can provide, and if you read between the lines, you will see “Being known for innovation and card-breaking isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”

Here’s all I can say really: Take care of your family. Love people. Look for hope in this world. Treat people kindly. At the end of everything, you can find satisfaction and relief in these things. They won’t warp you into a cheater, a person who lashes out at others, a rager, and all these stereotypes that exist in the community. Instead, they will be stable and let you exercise more creative efforts that can get you further in the game than an obsession over one combo, interaction, or rogue build ever could.

Good luck, have fun.