Jeff Zandi is a five time pro tour veteran who has been playing Magic since 1994. Jeff is a level two DCI judge and has been judging everything from small local tournaments to pro tour events.

Jeff is from Coppell, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, where his upstairs game room has been the "Guildhall", the home of the Texas Guildmages, since the team formed in 1996. One of the original founders of the team, Jeff Zandi is the team's administrator, and is proud to continue the team's tradition of having players in every pro tour from the first event in 1996 to the present.


 

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Selecting a Deck
Mirrodin Block Constructed Qualifier Season for Pro Tour Columbus
August 6, 2004


by Jeff Zandi

The qualifying season for Pro Tour Columbus is upon us, the format is Mirrodin Block Constructed, and there are plenty of good deck designs to choose from. In this article, I am going to talk about three of the most popular decks. If you are a player planning to play in a pro tour qualifier in the Mirrodin Block Constructed (we’ll call it MBC from now on) season, this article may be able to offer you some insight. I have been practicing this format for a few weeks and have built and played a little with all three decks that we’ll be discussing, as well as several others. I’m no MBC expert, but I am working hard on this format. I will be attempting to qualify in Dallas tomorrow and in several other PTQs in the coming weeks. I hope I can be helpful.

For all intents and purposes, this Pro Tour qualifying season started two weeks ago with Grand Prix Orlando. The highly skilled and very entertaining Osyp Lebedowicz won the event in Orlando, putting to rest any notion that Affinity was dead without Skullclamp. His deck is included in this article as the basic model, going forward from here, of Affinity. Osyp’s version really ISN’T indicative of the average Affinity deck that rolled into Orlando two weeks ago, but Osyp’s version, having won the Grand Prix, will most likely become the most popular version of the deck. Tooth and Nail is a deck design that has been solid for awhile now. I have chosen Manuel Bucher’s version primarily because of its success at Grand Prix Zurich, where it finished first. Finally, I have included Michael Kuhman’s Big Red build from GP Orlando, where he finished second to Osyp. The Big Red deck has the most varied deck construction options, and is fast becoming the front runner in the Mirrodin Block Constructed format.

AFFINITY

I have to admit that after this year’s Regional tournament, I doubted that Affinity would have much of a future. Besides the eventual banning of Skullclamp, lots of people seemed to think that Affinity was simply a gimmicky deck that EVERY deck had answers to. The logic behind this thinking may be just a little bit twisted around. Preparing for Regionals back in May is like preparing for the MBC pro tour qualifiers. If Affinity is popular in the MBC season the same way that Affinity was WILDLY popular for Regionals, you simply cannot play a deck unless it has answers for the Affinity deck.
This starts to get a little like the chicken and the egg question. I think that in this case, the Affinity deck came first, then came the need for all other decks to be able to deal with Affinity.

As great as Skullclamp was for this deck, it is amazing to me that the deck survives so well without the card-drawing that the banned equipment provided for this deck. Skullclamp was widely considered to be THE REASON that Affinity was the best deck. The card advantage gained through Skullclamp allowed Affinity to win games it probably SHOULD lose. As amazing as it is that Affinity continues to be strong without Skullclamp, it is almost equally astounding that the BIG REPLACEMENT for Skullclamp in current Affinity decks is Cranial Plating, a card that is hard to compare with Skullclamp in terms of card power. Of course, Cranial Plating serves an entirely different purpose. Where Skullclamp kept the cool side cool with card advantage, Cranial Plating keeps the hot side hot by allowing the Affinity player to put lethal pressure on their opponent very quickly into the game.

The basic divide between Affinity players is Aether Vial. Those who play the Vial, like Osyp at GP Orlando, like the card because it helps them overcome mana screw and allows them to perform their creature-casting at instant speed when desirable. Players who don’t like Aether Vial prefer a more aggressive version of Affinity. The question of whether or not Aether Vial is good has NOT been solved simply because Lebedowicz won the Grand Prix WITH the card. However, in answer to aggressive players who don’t like the card, I would like to point out that either version of the Affinity deck wins on turn four or five when it gets one of its so-called “god draws”.

There is a new line of separation between Affinity players right now, and that divide is question of whether or not to play the blue creatures. Some Affinity players have shelved their Myr Enforcers in favor of Somber Hoverguard in order to apply quick, evasive, non-artifact damage to green opponents. In addition to Hoverguard, Qumulox is also seeing play, for basically the same reasons. Qumulox has some advantages to Somber Hoverguard because Qumulox is much better against mono red decks. Osyp chose to stick with Myr Enforcer primarily in consideration of colored mana. Osyp wanted to play a mana base with fewer requirements for colored mana.

Affinity
Osyp Lebedowicz
1st place Grand Prix Orlando
Aether Vial x4
Chromatic Sphere x4
Cranial Plating x4
Thoughtcast x4
Disciple of the Vault x4
Arcbound Worker x4
Arcbound Ravager x4
Frogmite x4
Myr Enforcer x4
Atog x2
Myr Retriever x2
Blinkmoth Nexus x4
Vault of Whispers x4
Seat of the Synod x4
Darksteel Citadel x4
Great Furnace x3
Glimmervoid x1
SIDEBOARD
Tree of Tales x4
Oxidize x3
Viridian Shaman x3
Shrapnel Blast x3
Glimmervoid x1
Atog x1

TOOTH AND NAIL

When Skullclamp was first banned, the Standard constructed format (aka Type
II) responded by becoming very slow. Control decks, combo decks and decks like Tooth and Nail grew in popularity in the slower field. As players prepared for the current MBC format, Tooth and Nail became a strong deck choice. The Tooth and Nail player has several turns at the beginning of the game to do nothing more than develop a mana base with cards like Sylvan Scrying, Solemn Simulacrum and Reap and Sow. The goal is simple: get to nine mana in order to resolve an Entwined Tooth and Nail to bring in two win conditions, or, more often, one win condition and one card to keep your win condition alive.

The biggest divide between fans of the Tooth and Nail deck is the decision to include blue. Mono green builds choose greater mana consistency, while versions including blue have access to Crystal Shard, Condescend and possibly even Last Word.

The sideboard technology for this deck is very interesting. Mephidross Vampire and Triskelion join forces from the sideboard to give you a nigh-unbeatable combo. Once you use Tooth and Nail to get both of these creatures in play, the Mephidross’ ability keeps putting +1/+1 counters on your Triskelion even as you remove counters to damage your opponent’s creatures. Almost any creature on your opponent’s side of the table, short of Darksteel Colossus, will quickly be destroyed.

Tooth and Nail
Manuel Bucher
Grand Prix Zurich
Darksteel Colossus x1
Duplicant x1
Eternal Witness x4
Leonin Abunas x1
Platinum Angel x1
Solemn Simulacrum x4
Mindslaver x2
Oblivion Stone x4
Oxidize x4
Reap and Sow x3
Sylvan Scrying x4
Tel-Jilad Justice x4
Tooth and Nail x4
Blinkmoth Nexus x1
Cloudpost x4
Forest x15
Plains x1
Stalking Stones x2
SIDEBOARD:
Bringer of the White Dawn x1
Damping Matrix x4
Duplicant x1
Mephidross Vampire x1
Mindslaver x2
Plated Slagwurm x1
Reap and Sow x1
Triskelion x1
Viridian Shaman x3

BIG RED

Earlier this year, at Pro Tour Kobe, the top eight was dominated by a different kind of mono red deck. Those decks contained large numbers of red X spells including a lot of Detonates and quite a few Fireballs. In the current Big Red decklists, the spells are smaller, but the goal is the same, controlled burn. Big Red is a burn deck because it features relatively few creatures and lots of cards that can go straight to the opponent’s face. Big Red is a control deck because you have lots of tools for controlling the board and tools like Furnace Dragon, Arc-Slogger and Pulse of the Forge to put the game away late. Pulse of the Forge, brand new to players at Pro Tour Kobe, is more understood today, making it necessary to include less of them in the deck but making better use of them. The first time that you tap six or seven mana at the end of your opponent’s turn just for mana burn, you will certainly wonder if you know what you are doing. At the end of your opponent’s NEXT turn, when you cast Pulse of the Forge twice, deal eight damage and STILL have the same Pulse of the Forge card in your hand, you’ll be pretty excited about this seemingly crazy strategy.

Practicing with Big Red, I wasn’t sure at first how much I liked Molten Rain against the field. Good against Tooth and Nail decks as well as against Affinity decks, Molten Rain can be a completely wasted card other times.
Half of the question about the card is answered simply by knowing how good the card is against Affinity and T&N, and since they are the two most popular non-red decks in the field, Molten Rain may be here to stay. If you really hate Molten Rain in the main deck, at least make sure you have them in the board. Molten Rain is good but not necessarily essential against Affinity, but you really need them to get rid of Cloudposts in the Tooth and Nail matchups.

Big Red
Michael Kuhman
2nd place Grand Prix Orlando
Arc-Slogger x4
Furnace Whelp x3
Slith Firewalker x4
Electrostatic Bolt x4
Flamebreak x3
Magma Jet x4
Molten Rain x4
Pulse of the Forge x3
Seething Song x4
Shrapnel Blast x3
Darksteel Citadel x4
Great Furnace x2
Mountain x18
SIDEBOARD:
Flamebreak x1
Granulate x3
Shatter x3
Shunt x4
Wayfarer’s Bauble x4

ANOTHER INTERESTING DECK

White weenie provides some interesting options. Naysayers point out that
white weenie falls quickly once artifact hate, very popular in this format,
destroys the white deck’s equipment cards. I say that just because deck B
has cards in it that can destroy cards in deck A does not mean that deck A
is not a good design. I have played a mono white MBC deck on Magic Online
for a few weeks and I like its aggressive consistency. The deck is good
white creatures for one, two or three mana, like Auriok Glaivemaster, Leonin
Skyhunter and Skyhunter Skirmisher, and includes powerful, cheaply cast
equipment like Bonesplitter and Empyrial Plate. This deck can go to the
skies for a fast win.

GRAND PRIX ORLANDO IS ONLY THE BEGINNING

No matter what deck you choose this week, it is important to recognize that
Grand Prix Orlando does not provide the final word on what will work well in
this format. Far from it. Orlando’s results provide only a starting point
for this year’s block constructed season. After playing in the Dallas
qualifier tomorrow, I plan to focus next week’s article on the deck I think
is the best in the Mirrodin Block Constructed format. I hope you have good
luck in this weekend’s PTQs and I hope I see you at Pro Tour Columbus.

As usual, I’d like to know what YOU think.

Jeff Zandi
Texas Guildmages
Level II DCI Judge
jeffzandi@thoughtcastle.com
Zanman on Magic Online
 

 

 

 

 

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