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Sean Handy on Magic
Real Steel Starcity Games IQ *1st* x2
April 3, 2012

Hey everyone!  Long time no speak!  I know I said I would try to be more diligent with my articles, but, at the same time, I need to have good material to base the articles off of, so this week I'm going to talk about the deck that I've piloted lately to moderate success:  Tempered Steel.  Let's get this show on the road with the decklist I've been running.

Tempered Steel
As suggested by: Sean Handy
1st place at Belmont, NC on 3/9/2012
1st place at Knoxville, TN on 3/31/12

Lands
8 Plains
4 Gavony Township
4 Inkmoth Nexus
4 Razorverge Thicket
Creatures
4 Memnite
4 Signal Pest
4 Vault Skirge
4 Glint Hawk
4 Etched Champion
Artifacts
4 Mox Opal
4 Origin Spellbomb
4 Glint-Hawk Idol
Enchantments
4 Tempered Steel
Spells
4 Dispatch

The sideboard was mostly similar each week, but, there were subtle changes

Sideboard in Belmont (pre SCG Invitational)
3 Hero of Bladehold
3 Spellskite
3 Celestial Purge
2 Revoke Existence
2 Dismember
2 Leonin Relic Warder

Sieboard in Knoxville (post invitational)
3 Hero of Bladehold
3 Spellskite
3 Celestial Purge
1 Revoke Existence
1 Oblivion Ring
2 Leonin Relic Warder
1 Ray of Revelation
1 Dismember

There are only two cards that really changed between the two weeks, but the two cards made a huge impact on my win/loss ratios.  I like Revoke Existence and I like Celestial Purge, but often times I realized I needed them for curse of death's hold or honor of the pure. I don't know if you've noticed, they travel in packs, so I wanted something that was an instant, and could lead to better card advantage than revoke existence, ray received the nod.  I cut dismember for an oblivion ring because most of the time that I was casting dismember, it was after turn two, and oblivion ring was more versatile that dismember.  There are obviously situations where dismember was better, but, as stated previously, enchantments are a great thing to be able to deal with.  If I were to play in a tournament tomorrow, I would probably go with a sideboard like this:

2 Hero of Bladehold
2 Grafdigger's Cage
3 Spellskite
2 Revoke Existence
3 Celestial Purge
1 Oblivion Ring
1 Ray of Revelation
1 Dismember

Firstly, I know that Cage is getting a lot of hate right now for being overhyped at the (Pre)Release, but, hear me out.  Let's examine your deck's 3 worst matchups

R/G Aggro
Naya Pod
Kessig Variants

Let's take a minute to think about everything in those decks that Cage turns off

-Ancient Grudge (half the time, unless they use half of grudge on cage....)
-Birthing Pod
-Green Sun's Zenith
-Strangleroot Geist (half)
-Vorapede (half)
-random stuff like Sun Titan

On a side note, the card also contributes to non-creature metalcraft (AKA your opponent can't randomly just burn it and turn off metalcraft for you) and it is also a 1-drop artifact.

I cut the leonin relic-warders due to the fact that, well, they just hurt a lot right now, since vapor snag is such a big card, a lot of times it just doesn't do enough, and the double white can be a pain sometimes (on a side note, 2/2s without evasion suck).
 
***
If you're still reading at this point and didn't just skim for the decklist and leave, you're a trooper, but, this article as a whole is more a primer for the deck and how to sideboard (the deck's real strength) than it is a tournament report, feel free to contact me if you want any of the details of what I played against/the trips.  I apologize if this is a disappointment to anyone.
****

I feel that Steel is very well positioned in the format, despite what many people think.  One could look at worlds as a prime example of how good T-Steel can be when people aren't preparing for it, and frankly, right now, people are just trying to beat delver, which some builds don't even play artifacts, thus, many people are playing as few as two Ancient Grudges in their sideboards, and some delver lists playing as little artifact hate as a single Divine Offering or Steel Sabotage.  The deck takes more skill to play than people think, Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa recently wrote an entire article discrediting the "Aggro is easy to play, just play dudes, turn 'em sideways" myth.  I will concede sometimes you get those hands where you're hellbent (handless) on turn 2 with 8 cards in play, and you just push for 20, but there are a lot of times in this deck where you can play the conservative role and do just fine.

In my less-than-humble opinion the hardest part of playing tempered steel is a tossup between two things. 
1. Managing your mana
2. Knowing which hands you can keep.

Most people reading this see the first option and are thinking "Sean, you're crazy, this deck is a bunch of 1 drops, what are you managing?  Not tapping so fast you light the table on fire just from the friction of rotating your lands?".  To answer their question, no, I lift up my lands when I tap them, so there is little to no friction, but, to elaborate on my initial point, there are lots of tricks that I'll see 'Steel players not utilize with something as simple as a Mox Opal (I'm not talking about Glint Hawk).

One game in particular I had a Mox opal in my opening hand.  The hand itself looked like this

Inkmoth
Township
Township
Opal
Vault Skirge
Glint-Hawk Idol
Etched Champion

I then drew a plains and started to whittle their life down without casting the Mox opal.  My opponent (on Zombies) was a bit ahead in the creature war and pushed all out while I still only had 3 colorless lands in play, I took all the damage and went to 2 life, I proceeded to drop Mox opal (triggering idol) and a plains, and lethal him, going from 0, to 2 colored sources in one turn.

When it comes to managing mana, it is also good to keep in mind that there are a ton of colorless lands in the deck, so you have to make the most of your colored sources while they're untapped, it's easy to make mistakes such as tapping an opal for a Vault Skirge instead of a Township, don't make such a simple error that can throw off your whole game plan.

On the topic of knowing what hands to keep, just keep in mind that you don't have to have 5 cards in play on turn 1, there is nothing wrong with keeping a hand that has something like

Plains
Razorverge Thicket
Origin Spellbomb
Glint-Hawk Idol
Dispatch
Inkmoth Nexus
Etched Champion

People seriously underestimate the late-game of Tempered Steel.  I can understand the illusion of thinking that all aggro decks just have weaker cards in the late game, but between Tempered Steel and Township, people's minds can be changed pretty quickly when you play a 5/5 Memnite for 0 you just peeled off the top.

The thing I get the most fire from other people for is keeping opening hands with double mox opal in them.  Many peopel don't realize you can just check the remaining 6 cards and see if it is a keepable "mulligan".  I'll admit not all double opal hands are keepers, but,  they generally aren't nearly as bad as people give credit for games 2 and 3.  Ratchet bomb is a card, and a colorless instant-speed sinkhole is still pretty good (it also hits Myr tokens and Memnite on 0).  On the play I've also kept a triple opal hand before (they can provide tricks) G1 on the play.
T1
Inkmoth Nexus
Memnite
Memnite
Opal
Tap for white
Opal
both opals crack
Opal
tap for white
Tempered Steel
Pass

I ended up winning this game, turn 1 double 3/3 can be depressingly hard to answer, and I probably should have mulliganed, but, I wanted to live the dream of t1 tempered steel, and it paid off because the other player (delver) kept a loose opener full of counters against what he thought was a ramp deck (I play it a lot....).
 
 
----Sideboarding Discussions----

GR Aggro
You really have almost no business winning this matchup, but it isn't completely unwinnable. 

Out
-3 Glint Hawk
-4 Signal Pest
-1 Mox Opal

In
+3 Spellskite
+2 Grafdigger's Cage
+2 Celestial Purge
+1 Oblivion Ring

Nothing here is too crazy or creative.  If you see phyrexian metamorph then I would also cut a Gavony Township for a Revoke Existence on the draw, and cut a Glint Hawk for it on the play. 
 
Naya Pod

In this matchup you are definitely on the glint hawk (idol) plan.  They have very few ways to interact with them other than elesh norn and daybreak ranger, and since you dont need to use that much removal on anything else, you can just deal with daybreak as soon as it comes down.

Out
-4 Origin Spellbomb
-1 Mox Opal

In
+1 Revoke Existence
+1 Oblivion Ring
+1 Dismember
+2 Grafdigger's Cage

You have to take out spellbomb because your gameplan is aggroing them out.  You can win most creature wars, but not this one.  Don't even try, it generally won't buff for you short of you having a crazy amount of steels/champions.

Ramp
In this matchup you really just sob openly when you realize you're playing against them.

Out
-4 Spellbomb
-3 Glint Hawk
 
In
+2 Hero of Bladehold
+2 Grafdigger's Cage
+1 Oblivion Ring
+2 Spellskite

You have to be the aggressor here, but at the same time, you can't just let them start going nuts with wolf run, so spellskite is key.  This is the only matchup where hero is really relevant, but, if you stick the hero, it will win by itself, so it's worth the two sideboard slots.  (Hero + Signal Pest is a 2 turn clock by itself if you haven't dealt damage the whole game, pushing 11, then 17)

Zombies
This is a decent matchup, especially postboard.  UB is a bit better against you than BR, since image can do some silly stuff (image glint hawk to bounce their own mortapod and recast it for another ping is better than you probably think).  Also, without their lord, their dudes are just somewhat easy to deal with and not have to worry about it.  High Priest is the only thing that gives you trouble, but remember that your life is a resource, and when they start pushing, you can just take the damage and nothing dies.  You'll laugh, but, Origin Spellbomb is possibly the best 'creature' in your maindeck against them game 1.  It is just fantastic.  It hurts their edicts, and it is metalcraft count they might have trouble dealing with.

UB
Out
4 Signal Pest
1 Etched Champion
1 Mox Opal
2 Glint Hawk

In
3 Celestial Purge
2 Spellskite
1 Oblivion Ring
2 Grafdigger's Cage

Hawk is pretty bad in the matchup earlier in the game, because they have Tragic slip and Fumespitter, so, the odds of getting blown out early are depressingly high.  It is ok to play the 'control role' the first 4-5 turns against zombies, because they are a lot worse than you as the game progresses.  Spellskite isn't the best against them, but the fact that nothing other than obliterator or a 'flipped' messenger doesn't kill it is pretty relevant.

BR
Same board, except take out a township for another spellskite, because they have burn, and that hurts them.  Hard.

Delver
It can get kindof complicated here, because there are several builds of this floating around right now.  I'll try to shorten this as much as possible

Out
-4 Vault Skirge

This guy is not worth the 100 life you'll have to pay from vapor snags.  He always comes out. 
 
UW Stalker
Out
-1 Township

In
+2 Revoke
+2 Spellskite
+1 Oblivion Ring

Dismember is iffy because it isn't worth the life to hit a snapcaster, and other than that, the only targets are haunt tokens and delver.

Esper Spirits
Out
-1 Mox Opal
In
+3 Spellskite
+1 Oblivion Ring
+1 Dismember

Dismember is good here for dungeon geists and the lord. 

Gerry T Build (virtue, honor, Souls, etc.)
Out
-1 Mox Opal
In
+1 Ray of Revelation
+1 Revoke Existence
+2 Spellskite
+1 Oblivion Ring

Ray leads to so many blowouts in the matchup.  I was playing in FNM and had my opponent push into some Hawks and friends with 3/3 timely tokens.  I had ray.  They lost.  This is probably the scariest of the delver decks for you to be paired up against.  Lingering Souls and Vault of the Archangel are definitely a thing. 

WB Tokens
I honestly don't have a lot of experience against this, as it is still considered more of a tier two deck at the moment, but, if I was sideboarding blindly against it would probably resemble this:
Out
-1 Dispatch
-1 Mox Opal
-1 Gavony Township
-1 Vault Skirge

In
+2 Revoke Existence
+1 Oblivion Ring
+1 Ray of Revelation

I dont think Sorin is worth the inclusion of Celestial Purge.  If their deck played card draw it might be worth it, but, the deck only has Sorin in the way of Black cards, so I feel that it might just be unnecessary.  I'd need to test more to be positive on what to take out.

UB Control
This matchup is your best matchup.  Just about any UB player will disagree with you, but, again, it is a matter of people not actually testing the matchup and assuming they god draw against you.  I'm not saying it is unwinnable for them, but, it takes a rediculously lopsided draw on both sides of the table in UB's favor to win.

Out
-1 Opal
-1 Township
-2 Dispatch

In
+1 Ray of Revelation
+1 Celestial Purge
+2 Spellskite

Don't be afriad to keep slower hands, you'll have time to beat them.  I remember won of the best games I had against UB (as far as never being out of position) I kept
Razorverge
Township
Plains
Spellbomb
Spellbomb
Etched Champion
Tempered Steel

Red Deck Wins
This is actually an iffier matchup than most people give it credit for, since Torch Fiend is a thing now.
Out
-4 Signal Pest
-1 Mox Opal
-2 Glint Hawk
 
In
+1 Oblivion Ring
+3 Spellskite
+3 Celestial Purge
 
Spignal pest get taken out because it doesn't do anything to stromkirk, gets burnt if it matters, and isn't very good by itself, and they play a lot of potential removal against you.

If I forgot a deck that is bigger than I thought I apologize, these are merely the decks thaT I have played against the past few weeks with the deck and needed to know how to sideboard against.  If you liked this article, contact me and tell me why.  If you didn't, it'd be really awesome if you contacted and told me why.  If you have other thoughts about the article itself or want some advice on your own deck or more boarding options in tempered steel, or just to talk about magic in general, shoot me an invite on any of the social websites I'm on

email: andro_sphinx@yahoo.com
twitter: Paper_gangsta_
facebook: facebook.com/shakezilluh
youtube: themcshakealchemist
pojo forums: themcshakealchemis (no T because I'm stupid)
 
Thanks a lot for reading, and, I apologize for any typographical errors, my tablet doesn't have an attachable keyboard so bear with me.

Never stop testing
Sean Handy

 

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