So I went to the SCG Open in Columbus this past weekend. Generally, playing control decks during the first weekend / big event of a new Standard (even with nothing rotating out) is difficult because you cannot tune your answers to the exact threats present in the meta. For me, though, I’ve been playing BW Control almost exclusively for the past 6 months and didn’t feel comfortable playing something new. I knew spirits and humans would be all over the place (Bant Company and White Weenies) so I adjusted my BW Control list to have more instant-speed removal (in the form of Murder) and tried to retain the ability to answer enemy planeswalkers. I also added two Oath of Liliana because, when cast on curve, it’s pretty crazy. Below I’ll cover the changes I made and what my plans are for EMN (even though my plans are odd).
So first off, here was the list I took to #SCGCOL:
2 Anguished Unmaking 2 Blighted Fen 4 Caves of Koilos 4 Forsaken Sanctuary 3 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar 3 Grasp of Darkness 4 Languish 2 Ob Nixilis Reignited 3 Plains 1 Planar Outburst 3 Read the Bones 3 Ruinous Path 2 Secure the Wastes 4 Shambling Vent 2 Sorin, Grim Nemesis 6 Swamp 3 Transgress the Mind 2 Ultimate Price 2 Westvale Abbey 1 Geier Reach Sanitarium 2 Oath of Liliana 2 Murder //Sideboard SB: 3 Duress SB: 2 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet SB: 1 Linvala, the Preserver SB: 2 Reality Smasher SB: 2 Thought-Knot Seer SB: 1 Archangel Avacyn SB: 2 Eldrazi Displacer SB: 2 Hallowed Moonlight
I felt like this provided a sufficient amount of spot removal, board wipes, and planeswalker answers to still fend off Company decks, potentially deal with White Weenie decks, and at least stand a chance against spirits. The addition of Oath of Liliana still feels questionable. It’s not great if you draw it after you’ve deployed your own planeswalkers (essentially serving as a one-time edict). But if you cast it turn 3 and follow it up with Gideon on turn 4 (make a knight, make a zombie), Ob Nixilis on 5 (kill their dude, make a zombie) you’re generally so far ahead that you’re likely to win.
I ended up going 4-4 and dropping after my 4th loss in round 8. I never felt like the deck was horrible. I made some misplays that cost me games (including not Anguished Unmaking some important targets like Always Watching against a UW Spirits/Ojutai deck early and then losing to Ojutai). I also had a few terrible draws (in the mirror match, game 3 was lost because I kept a 4 land hand and seeing nothing but lands for my next 6 draws). But mostly I felt like I was fairly well positioned. Spirits was odd in that I played against two similar lists (seemingly tempo spirits that sided into a slower game with bigger top end games 2 and 3) and got crushed by the first one (0-2) and fairly handily beat the second one (2-1). I have no idea how BW lines up against it over all but I wouldn’t say it feels unwinnable. Playing around Queller gets tough, though, given how many of BW’s sorcery speed spells are 4 CMC or less.
A quick summary of my matches:
Round 1: Bant CoCo
My opponent had the new Tamiyo as well as general Bant CoCo (Duskwatch, Advocate, Queller, Reflector Mage, etc.) good stuff. Game 1 was a close match. I board wiped a few times and drew plenty of spot removal to keep him slowed down. Near the end of the game I had secured the wastes for 5 or 6 (but no Westvale on the board) and he CoCoed into some blockers. He swung at me taking me from 17 life to 4 (I don’t quite recall how much he had on the board, but a few advocates at 4/5 were involved). He was at 8 life and I had 5 1/1’s on the board and he had 2 blockers up. I attacked in, he blocked and went to 5. I dropped a Sorin and +1-ed revealing another Sorin to win the game and slightly tilt my opponent.
Game 2 he ran me over – I never dealt a single point of damage and slowly went down to 4, gained 5 with Linvala, got Linvala reflector-ed and lost the game.
Game 3 ended with my opponent frustrated. We were again in a close match but I had fliers on the board (Avacyn, Linvala) and a Kalitas that he’d kept tapped down. I went to Murder one of his blockers and he Evo-Leaped it. Then he Evo Leaped a dude I was blocking with a Shambling Vent. In both cases I forgot to make zombies as his guys died. We called a judge and the judge gave us both game warnings and ruled that his dudes went to exile and I did not get the zombies. I was okay with this but my opponent, during the judge deliberation, realized that his second Evo Leap left him with only 3 open mana so he could not CoCo on my turn to prevent me from dealing lethal. He tried to argue that the game should be rewinded but the judge pointed out that his decisions were made in line with the outcome of the ruling. I untapped, attacked for lethal, and my opponent didn’t speak to me after the match. Most other match descriptions won’t be this long.
Round 2: BW Control (0-1 so far)
Games 1 and 3 were basically my opponent and myself getting screwed on draws respectively. It came down to Game 2 where we both had decent draws but I lost the race due to him having more effective hand disruption.
Round 3: White Weenies (1-1 so far)
This was a matchup I was worried about as they can have explosive starts that require Languish on 4 or lose. Luckily I cast Languish on turn 4 both games and easily planeswalked to victory after that.
Round 4: UW Spirits (2-1 so far)
My opponent’s answers were absolutely on point and I dealt 0 damage to him across both games and got run over. I got almost every important removal spell Quelled or Negated and just could not answer his repeated flying threats including timely Rattlechains for the few spells that didn’t get countered. It was a fast match. I consoled myself by reminding myself that a quick loss meant I could grab food, at least.
Round 5: UW Spirits (with Elder Deep Fiend: 2-2 so far)
Elder Deep Fiend actually felt like it lost my opponent his match. Both times he tried to cast it (once each game) I was holding Murder or Anguished Unmaking and simply floated mana in response to hit tap-targets and blew up the Fiend during my Upkeep. After that, he was left with low board presence and just wrecked him.
Round 6: Bant CoCo (3-2 so far)
Game 1 went so smoothly that I got a bit overconfident. In Game 1 he whiffed on a CoCo and I played a Gideon and just won off the back of his +1. Game 2 was very close but I could not get enough pressure on his board state to keep him from winning. Game 3 I drew a ton of land and just never saw a single threat (creature or planeswalker) and no board wipes. Oh well.
Round 7: UR Goggles (3-3 so far)
This was it, if I lost this match (or any future match) I was going to drop. UR Goggles is not a great match up for me, but I squeaked out of Game 1 at 2 life after my opponent ran out of gas and never got a Goggles to stick on the board. Game 2 was less close and I just lost to burn. Game 3 started so strong. I played an early Kalitas and just quickly got out of burn range with Kalitas and Shambling Vents. At one point I was at 29 life and feeling good. I never went lower than 19 life and slowly ground out my opponent.
Round 8: GBu Value? (4-3 so far)
This was a weird deck. Seemed like a GB Delirium deck at first so I worked on removing threats like Gitrog and Grim Flayer and then when his board was clear I played out my Planeswalkers. I looked at his hand at one point and saw 3x Grasp, 1x Ultimate Price, 1x Murder which were basically dead in his hand. I lost because in one turn he played an Island (which took me by surprise) and then Silumgar to take my Sorin, kill my Gideon, and proceed to win from there. I debated siding in all my creatures and siding out planeswalkers. I decided not to, however, which was what lost me the game. My opponent sided out all his removal other than ruinous path and sided in 4x duress. If I’d changed plans I might have had a chance, but as it stood I did very little in game 2 and just lost.
Plans going forward are to hop onto GW Tokens (even though many people are worried that it will no longer be a force with Spirits in the meta). I’ve been testing it and while Spirits is a tough match it doesn’t feel unwinnable. I’m also, perhaps foolishly, jamming 4x Permeating Mass into my mainboard in place of Hangarback Walker (for now – I doubt this will last as I know it’s likely a suboptimal change). For budget/cards available reasons I’m also only jamming 2x Avacyn (the 2x are Ishkanah, Graf Widow which has felt great so far). I can post my list later; for now I should get back to work.