Tree of Tales – Reign in the Champion

Welcome back to my little corner of the Multiverse. Another few weeks have gone by, but very little has changed about the format. Caw-Blade (in all it’s forms) is still tearing up Standard, and everyone seems to be playing it everywhere you look. Can it be beaten? Well, that depends on who you ask. There is no doubt it’s a powerhouse, but unbeatable? Not by a long shot.

There are lots of different routes to success against Caw-Blade, especially against different builds. I will list a series of cards, as well as their applications against the deck, all of which help against the Elephant in the room.

Lightning Bolt – This one is obvious, as 1cc removal for Sword-wielding Birds is a very good thing. However, when War and Peace drops in the next set, it will be significantly worse, as it will only be useful prior to the equip.

Inquisition of Kozilek – Another no-brainer, this one grabs nearly every action card in their deck, missing only Jace 2.0 and Gideon. Extremely effective at almost any point in the match.

Disfigure – Surprisingly good against Caw-Blade, as it can be cast in response to the equip, and kills every creature in their deck, INCLUDING Creeping Tar Pit for the Esper Blade builds. Doesn’t kill Gideon Jura, but if you have access to black then you also have GFTT, so he shouldn’t be extremely difficult to handle.

Ratchet Bomb – I know it seems like a dumb idea, but it handles such a large portion of their deck it’s scary, almost always netting a 2-for-1 or better, and sweeps Swords off the field, punishing bad players who drop 2 swords for overkill or giving you a 1-for-1 on their primary action card, usually right around when it would go active. Beware of Into the Roil, as it can be punishing.

Acidic Slime – On the lean side, as it can be handled fairly easily with counter-magic, due to it’s high CMC. However, played in a deck with Summoning Traps, I think it could easily provide the tempo disruption necessary to give Valakut the edge against the Angry Birds.

Duress – See Inquisition. Although it doesn’t actually answer the creatures, it does grab Swords, Planeswalkers, removal and counter-magic, so it can get quite a bit done when you need it. Definitely a strong mover in the fight against the opponent.

Spreading Seas – More effective against Esper Blade, but generally very good against Caw-Blade. Shuts off manlands, denies mana, and returns the investment. Accompanied by the next card in this list, it can just about shut your opponent directly out of the game, especially in multiples.

Tectonic Edge – Coupled with Spreading Seas, this card just eliminates their ability to play their spells. Losing 2 multi-colored sources of mana by turn 4 is debilitating for anyone, but especially so for a three color deck.

There are quite a few more I could list, but just from these you can see there are many routes to victory against the current champion of Standard. I plan on playing the following list until we get New Phyrexia legal in Standard.

Land (25)
Darkslick Shores
Drowned Catacomb
Creeping Tar Pit
Tectonic Edge

Spells (27)
Inquisition of Kozilek
Mana Leak
Spreading Seas
Go for the Throat
Doom Blade
Black Sun’s Zenith
Jace’s Ingenuity

Planeswalkers (5)
Jace Beleren
Jace, the Mind Sculptor

Creatures (3)
Wurmcoil Engine
Sideboard (15)
Ratchet Bomb
Black Sun’s Zenith

It has a very strong game against Caw-Blade, coming up a bit weak in game 1, but being exceptionally strong games 2-3. Having the ability to force discard on turns 1 and/or 2, then move into mana disruption turns 3 and/or 4, followed by a bomb of some sort.

Cancel has been exceptional for me, giving me the hard counter I need in the late turns where situational counters such as Spell Pierce and Mana Leak just don’t get the job done.

Wurmcoil Engine is a solid finisher, mostly because of the protection that the Swords give making Grave Titan slightly worse. Lifelink can be fairly relevant, as even a Hawk wielding two Swords loses to the life-gain represented by Wurmcoil Engine. Deathtouch can also be fairly relevant, making it a difficult creature to deal with. Lastly, he has built in Day of Judgment protection, forcing them into a 2-for-1 on your part; Esper Blade has even less answers, as typically their strongest answer to large creatures is Go for the Throat, which just doesn’t do it.

Tumble Magnet has been somewhat good against this list, giving them a barrier between my Wurmcoil Engine and their life total. However, post-board it just gives you an additional relevant reason to bring in Ratchet Bomb, as now they have Tumble Magnet, Swords, and possibly even Jace Beleren all sitting at the 3 cmc spot, just waiting to be picked ripely by a Ratchet Bomb at 3.

It’s not a perfect list, but I do like it’s game against Caw-Blade. If you are like me, then you really don’t want to jump on the bandwagon along with everyone else, and this is a perfectly viable alternative. Keep in mind when playing this list that, like most control decks, you will have to be conscious of the time left in the round, as it can be extremely slow at times. Expect a fair number of draws, or even 1-0 victories, as very seldom will you have the necessary time to play 3 complete games.

The Community

So this previous week we had some sadness in the valley, as GameNightz had their doors closed. While I won’t go into the specifics of what has happened, I will say we all hope for an amenable solution to their current problems. In the meantime, this leaves a bit of a void in the valley for many of the players who made this store their own.

For those of you who came from the West end of town to play there, my highest recommendation is Manawerx 2.0. Located at 4920 W. Thunderbird Rd., they have good space, friendly staff, and will soon be opening an even larger space than they currently have, which is not tiny. Aaron is a good guy, and he makes an effort to make you feel welcome there. Good selection (I was able to walk in and ask for a Crucible of Worlds, which Aaron promptly told me they had) and service make this a good place to purchase and play.

For those of you who were coming from the south end, Samurai Central, located at 1051 E. Camelback is a good choice. Lots of floor space and good lightning make it an excellent venue for large tournaments, and they usually have a strong following for their FNM and Saturday Magic. Lately, they’ve been able to capture a few of the larger events, which is a good thing in my opinion. Hopefully with time we can see them rip down a PTQ or similar event, and see major events return to the central corridor.

So for those of you who lost a second home, there are other choices. These are just a pair, and there are many more in the Valley. Pop Culture Paradise and The Mana Dump, as well as Gamers Inn, are all out east, and Samurai West is out near Indian School and the 101. There’s lots of good places to play in the valley, it’s just unfortunate we lost one. However, as the popular proverb goes, In every raincloud there is a silver lining.

The Vault

This week we’re going to get silly, and do a competitive Commander list. This list is run by the General Kresh, the Bloodbraided. I will start with a disclaimer: This is NOT a deck to take to the kitchen table. They will kick you out of their circle. Focusing mainly on resource denial, this deck is obnoxious, but wins quite often. Without further ado, our list:

Land (38)
Bloodstained Mire
Wooded Foothills
Verdant Catacombs
Misty Rainforest
Windswept Heath
Marsh Flats
Arid Mesa
Stomping Ground
Blood Crypt
Overgrown Tomb
Raging Ravine
Lavaclaw Reaches
Gilt-Leaf Palace
Dragonskull Summit
Rootbound Crag
Reflecting Pool
Graven Cairns
Twilight Mire
Fire-Lit Thicket
Dryad Arbor
Strip Mine
Phyrexian Tower

Mana Acceleration (14)
Mox Diamond
Birds of Paradise
Llanowar Elves
Elves of Deep Shadow
Sol Ring
Charcoal Diamond
Fire Diamond
Moss Diamond
Nature’s Lore
Yavimaya Granger
Oracle of Mul-Daya

Land Destruction (13)
Choking Sands
Rain of Tears
Stone Rain
Molten Rain
Avalanche Riders
Ice Storm
Winter’s Grasp
Creeping Mold
Acidic Slime

Removal (8)
Diabolic Edict
Chainer’s Edict
Go for the Throat
Maelstrom Pulse
Pernicious Deed

Library/Graveyard Manipulation (17)
Worldly Tutor
Vampiric Tutor
Imperial Seal
Demonic Tutor
Sensei’s Divining Top
Sylvan Library
Life from the Loam
Crucible of Worlds
Survival of the Fittest
Lightning Greaves
Eternal Witness
Elven Cache
Fauna Shaman

Beats (5)
Primeval Titan
Inferno Titan
Grave Titan
Broodmate Dragon

Planeswalkers (4)
Garruk Wildspeaker
Sarkhan Vol
Sarkhan the Mad
Chandra Ablaze

General (1)
Kresh, the Bloodbraided

This deck is just off the chains, completely denying all but the most counter-centric strategies. With 13 land destruction spells, it can literally just chain it together seemingly without end. Couple that with the ability to tutor into something like Exploration + Crucible of Worlds + Strip Mine, and the game just ends. Period.

Despite it seeming light on threats, it never has the problem, mostly because Kresh can get pretty mean all by himself, and when your opponent doesn’t have their mana, well, it can be hard to deal with ANYTHING. Couple that with the amount of library manipulation this list runs, and it stays on it’s game pretty handily, having very few “bad hands.”

As I said before, this is bad mannered. HEAVILY bad mannered. You shouldn’t take this list to play at a fun night and expect anything but anger and revulsion at this strategy. I will also say that this is NOT a multi-player deck. This is specifically for 1-on-1 Commander duels, especially at tournaments.

Darigaaz the Igniter is another good choice for general if Kresh isn’t your style. There’s even an Elder Dragon Legend if I’m not mistaken in these colors. In any case, enjoy, and have a good week.