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Attention to Detail #19
What SSS Can Do For You
by Jordan Kronick
April 28, 2006

It's been a dizzying week of Magic. I've spent the last few days helping the Magic Online team beta test Dissension. Between all the games of kitchen sink prismatic and fun with the new Vanguard avatars, I've had a little time to think about the future of Ravnica block constructed, now that I have the cards in front of me. My initial assumptions of the viability of blue-white-green control needed to be tested. The strength of the Rakdos needed to be taken into account. And all the crazy new combo cards needed to be checked as well. While I was thinking about all that, I happened to watch a guy I know play a match. He was running a deck that hadn't occurred to me. And over the course of the beating he handed his opponent, I realized just what I needed to be playing. From that match I assembled a deck list. This week, I present to you an exciting new deck. Then I'll have some words about just how it functions and the matchups I've had the ability to try.

30 Spells

4x Compulsive Research

4x Remand
4x Muddle the Mixture
4x Farseek
4x Electrolyze
4x Voidslime
4x Research // Development
2x Invoke the Firemind

6 Creatures

4x Carven Caryatid
2x Simic Sky Swallower

24 Lands

4x Breeding Pool
4x Steam Vents
2x Simic Growth Chamber
2x Izzet Boilerworks
8x Island
3x Forest
1x Mountain

Sideboard

4x Dream Leash
4x Spell Snare
4x Repeal
3x Indrik Stomphowler

I haven't had this much fun with a control deck in years. The problem that I was finding with the UWG control deck was that it lacked answers. A format without a decent Wrath of God variant tends to be that way, and Hour of Reckoning just isn't going to cut the mustard. In my desire to use the new Azorius control elements, I was ignoring the fine removal elements that already existed from Guildpact. The best thing about the Ravnica block format is that you don't have to be confined to standard conventions about what colors work together. There's a guild for every combination now, and the people who win will be the ones who take advantage of that. This deck reminds me in many ways of the blue-green tempo decks of Invasion block. However, it combines this quick control with two other historical elements. First, of course, is the burn. While there are only six burn spells in the deck, it often feels like there are a lot more. The deck draws cards fast enough that you can expect to see plenty of removal for the things that slip through the cracks in your counter wall. The acceleration elements provided by the green cards help to ensure that you get what you need and can use it in time for it to matter. There's a lot of complex elements at work here, and this deck rewards a player who knows how to look ahead and use every card to it's greatest effect. There's not much margin for error with this deck. Here's the breakdown on the choices I made with the design:

Compulsive Research – This is clearly the best card drawer available right now. Although it's tempting to try some of the new stuff like Vision Skeins, it just doesn't seem like that would pay off. The sorcery speed can be troubling, but I find that with the large number of cantrips in the deck, you don't need to cast the Researches until the mid-game anyhow. So it isn't much of a problem.

Remand – Before Dissension, I would say this was the
best counterspell in Ravnica block. Now we've got Voidslime, but this is still great. In a deck like this, you can really see just how much better than Memory Lapse this card can be. It's easy on the color requirements, which is nice. Most importantly, it helps you keep your hand full. It's even beneficial against Rakdos decks that want to empty their hands as quickly as possible. There wasn't a moment when I didn't think about including Remand in this deck.

Muddle the Mixture – I have to admit that this is the most questionable card in the deck. It was used in the version of the deck that I first observed, but I'm still uncertain about it. Against some decks it is incredibly strong. Against some decks it's basically worthless. Usually the Transmute ability would be useful in those situations, but this deck has very little to transmute for. Farseek and Remand are the only choices. In the late game, neither of these is particularly interesting. I've considered switching it for the Spell Snares which currently occupy the sideboard, but those have even more potential to be dead cards. If a new option presents itself, Muddle the Mixture is on the chopping block.

Farseek – I might not have immediately included this, had I originally designed this deck myself. However, I'm impressed by it. Farseek evens things out nicely and makes the colored mana requirements often a second thought. Of course, holding mana for a Remand is usually more important on turn 2 than casting this, but as soon as you can sneak it through, it helps out immensely.

Electroylyze – The first of the three red elements in the deck, this has proven to be invaluable. The worst enemy of this deck is the quick rush. Electrolyze deals with that perfectly. It's also efficient removal against the most dire threat of all – Rakdos Augermage. I've so far never had one of these actually get to use it's ability against me, and I hope I never have to. The ability to tear the counterspells – or even worse, win conditions – out of this deck is a very real concern. If this card didn't exist, there would be no reason for there to be red mana in here at all.

Voidslime – I had a hunch that I would love this card when I saw it in the form of a spoiler. Now that I've gotten to use it, my hunch is confirmed. Much like lumber, Voidslime has a million uses. I've countered Augurmages, Angels of Despair, lethal activations of Seals of Fire and – most importantly – the “return this to play” triggered ability of Ghost Council of Orzhova. This combined with the robust defense of Carven Caryatid makes Ghost Council basically a non-issue. This will never be a dead card.

Research and Development – This is one of the first things I changed about this deck after I put it together. I wanted to try out the Development half of this card, and it turned out to be fantastic. There are very few situations where the board position is such that this card won't have an impact. I seem to get three cards off of it frequently, which is never bad. If this were a sorcery, it would have no place in this deck. That it is an instant is proof to me that Wizards R&D has not completely abandoned powerful card draw. I've never used the Research half of this card, and honestly I doubt I ever will. The only situation I can see it being necessary is if I need to bring my Stomphowlers in from the sideboard against a Dovescape deck. Having that option there is nice, but ultimately moot.

Invoke the Firemind – This deck only has 3 different potential
finishers. One of them is the above-mentioned Development. If the opponent doesn't choose to give you elementals, then that plan is right out. The second one is the huge creature which I'll talk about in a moment. Thirdly is this card. So far, evey time I've used it, it's been a Blaze. I've never been in a situation where I needed to use the card draw to try to pull an answer, and I hope I won't have to be. As such, I'm seriously considering switching this for Demonfire. The hellbent ability probably won't come in handy too often, but otherwise it's probably superior. The remove-from-game clause could also come in handy against Firemane Angels. It's a minor change, but I think it's something I'll have to do soon.

Carven Caryatid - +2/+1 for G may seem like a good deal, but I still wish this was a Wall of Blossoms. One of the only problems I seem to run into with the mana from this deck is that I'm often stuck with only two green mana in play and the choice between playing Carven Caryatid or holding back for a Voidslime. Still, even with that problem, this card is a huge benefit. It holds back early attackers while punishing the low toughness that most of them have. It's not going to stop a Watchwolf, but it certainly prevents those early Gobhobbler Rats from annoying you. I wouldn't pull this card for anything less than the Wall of Blossoms that it wishes it could be.

Simic Sky Swallower – I've saved the best for last. When I was watching this deck played for the first time, I was curious as to what the win condition was. His deck didn't have the Developments, and I knew it couldn't be as simple as just being Invoke the Firemind. Then he dropped the big beastie, and I was elated. It's so simple and yet so ingenious. Control decks have often relied on creatures with lots of expensive abilities to make it survivable and powerful. Morphling, for instance, requires an investment of mana every turn to make it both survivable and also aggressive enough to finish the game. SSS doesn't have that problem. For two more mana than Morphling you get something that flies all the time, is always untargetable, and is larger than a Morphling could ever hope to be. And it doesn't require to you keep mana open to protect it from removal. In the future of RBC and Standard, I think having an answer to SSS is going to be an important concern for every theoretical deck.

The sideboard presented some interesting questions. The metagame is still a bit unsure, so most of the choices were fairly generalized. I picked the Dream Leashes as a way of snwering Firemane Angels, among other things. The Repeals didn't make the main deck, but I still wanted them as an option against Rakdos decks which can be severely punished by a little bit of bounce. The Indrik Stomphowlers are my answer to Dovescape control decks, as they give me an out and another win condition. The most important card in the sideboard however is Spell Snare. Against some decks, it really shines. The number of two drops of importance has really never been higher. Zoo decks are packing Watchwolves, Lightning Helixes and Dryad Sophisticates. Simic graft decks have Silhana Ledgewalkers (which can be a real pain to deal with). And possibly worst of all is one of the new split cards – Seek. This card can quickly remove your SSSs from the deck while simultaneously gaining a bunch of life. The deck doesn't have enough win conditions to be able to spare them to this card. Spell Snare is incredible, and I've strongly considered adding it to the maindeck.

The deck plays much as any other slightly tempo based deck does. It tries to set up an early defense while also developing the mana base. Eventually it establishes control and superior card advantage and then drops a threat to win the game with. One of the reasons I love this deck so much is that it doesn't play like a classic control deck. This is definitely not draw-go. Every turn you're going to have to make choices about how much mana to leave open for answers and how much to use to develop your position. If you put too much emphasis on the control, you can run out of steam. If you put too much emphasis on development (no pun intended), you will get rolled by early threats. This is not an easy deck to play. There are more decisions than most control decks have to make and, as I said earlier, not much margin for error.

Once Dissension finishes the beta testing and is released online (which should be on May 30th), I'm going to try to get all of these cards together for some work on the constructed tournaments online. I'll have more fun Dissension Beta stuff for you in the intervening weeks. Who knows? I might even discover something that I love more than this deck. New sets are the most fun thing that can happen to a Magic environment. New choices and new strategies. Ravnica block may be finished, but it's true impact on constructed formats is really only beginning to be examined.

 




 

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