Jonathan Pechon

*Two "Top 8" Grand Prix Finishes

*Top 32 at Pro Tour Osaka



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Digging in the Dirt of Mirrodin-Block


Okay, so I really wanted to try to avoid talking about Eternal Witness for yet another article…and yet, it’s just entrenched itself into every environment to a degree where it just has to be a topic of discussion.  Even now, with a reasonably new block coming into existence, it’s already made a splash…


…bringing us to that most entertaining of environments.  Yes, ladies, gentlemen, and amorphous androgynous organisms, it’s that time of year again.  It’s time, once again, for Block-constructed to take the spotlight for everyone trying to reach the fabled Pro Tour.  And this time, what a block we have to play with.


It seems like recent blocks have had clear favorites for deck-choice before the season even begins lately.  Onslaught-block had R/W control and Odyssey-block had the various builds of U/G threshold that dominated the scene during the first couple of events.  Whenever someone went to grab a deck to play without a great deal of testing, people seemed to invariably find a version of one of these decks to trot out there and get trounced by those people who actually tested the environment.


However, the closest deck that we have to that in the current environment is Affinity, a deck that really seems to have taken quite a few hits lately and doesn’t play the best card in the format.  What we seem to have here is a drastic shift away from the three decks that existed before (Tooth and Nail, Affinity, Big Red) into a new flurry of decks that have managed to flip the entire environment on its ear.


The key to most of them?  Eternal Witness, of course.


Let’s take a look at the “breakthrough” deck from GP-Zurich.


Matteo Cirigliano – 2nd place, GP-Zurich


4 Solemn Simulacrum

4 Viridian Shaman

4 Eternal Witness

2 Triskelion


3 Annul

4 Oxidize

4 Thirst for Knowledge

4 Echoing Truth

4 Condescend

3 Crystal Shard


12 Forest

12 Island




4 Troll Ascetic

4 Last Word

1 Annul

2 Duplicant

4 Tel-Jilad Justice


Obviously, the primary focus of the deck is to break Eternal Witness through the use of Crystal Shard.  Through Witness, counterspells, and bounce and removal spells, this deck grinds out longer games, exhausting the opposition through continuous use of the Witness through the Shard.  Removing the Shard is almost pointless, as the ever-present Witness will simply return it to hand, then to play. 


Testing of this deck has shown it be extremely resilient, having a great game against many of the decks in the field.  However, it has shown a severe weakness to Molder Slug, and creatures of similar large size have given it considerable difficulty in general.  With this in mind, it seems that this might actually be a poor choice for PTQs, based on the fact that there really is no telling what you might run into on a given day.  A single Slug can ruin your day, and the average PTQ player is going to be gunning for the guys who want to pick up Affinity the night before and try to make it walk.


Let’s take a look at another of those top eight decks, with a different philosophy:


Charles Delvaux – 5th-8th place, GP-Zurich


4 Viridian Shaman

4 Troll Ascetic

4 Eternal Witness

4 Viridian Zealot

4 Molder Slug

3 Tel-Jilad Chosen

2 Fangren Firstborn


4 Tel-Jilad Justice

4 Oxidize

2 Pulse of the Tangle


21 Forest

4 Blinkmoth Nexus




3 Ouphe Vandals

3 Bloodscent

2 Fangren Firstborn

2 Sword of Fire and Ice

1 Tel-Jilad Chosen

1 Predator’s Strike

1 Ferocious Charge

1 Karstoderm

1 Sword of Light and Shadow


While the main deck is pretty tightly constructed, the sideboard seems to look like the remains of a couple of drafts the night before.  Regardless, the idea here is simply to illustrate the concept of the deck: heavy disruption of artifacts while beating the ever-loving tar out of the opponent with large green critters.  In case of non-artifact matchups, it seems like you just hope to move on to sideboard and/or see who happens to get lucky.  Once again, the Witness appears, but mainly to provide some form of long game in case you fail to make a sufficiently aggressive start; it’s backed up by Slug and Firstborn as the primary monsters in the deck, though there’s plenty of gas to back them up.


This deck really seems to have gained a great deal of popularity among players, probably most likely due to the simple nature of its play:  either you blow up lots of artifacts and win, or you hope to have bigger monsters than them and win.  Obviously, if you see a lot of affinity in the room, or the Shard deck listed above, this might really be the choice for you.


There’s one more deck from this GP I’d like to look at:


Timo Groth – 5th-8th place, GP-Zurich


4 Solemn Simulacrum

4 Eternal Witness

4 Viridian Shaman


4 Wayfarer’s Bauble

4 Oxidize

4 Beacon of Creation

3 Chrome Mox

3 Journey of Discovery

3 Echoing Courage

3 Echoing Truth

2 Thirst for Knowledge

1 Rude Awakening


19 Forest

2 Island




4 Oblivion Stone

4 Damping Matrix

4 Creeping Mold

1 Thirst for Knowledge

1 Tel-Jilad Justice

1 Rude Awakening


This deck highlights two cards that I really want to make sure get noticed:  Beacon of Creation and Echoing Truth.  The Beacon is going to end up making a massive number of creatures in a large number of situations; combining that with Echoing Courage is going to provide some incredible beatings, if you’ve got five or six little bugs in play.  The Shamans and Oxidize are simply there to provide interference while you set up for a huge Beacon with Journeys and Baubles.


The second card, Echoing Truth, has shown up in a very wide range of decks.  Frankly, the sudden popularity of the Beacon has actually made it quite necessary to run Echoing Truth as a means of removing the large numbers of creatures that arrive due to the Beacon.  It’s so versatile, though, that you really can’t say no to it; it offers you great options against Affinity by bouncing creatures with +1/+1 counters, or by sending back creatures just Tooth and Nailed into play.  In this case, it’s a question of controlling tempo and stalling long enough to effectively combo out.


What’s the sum of all this?  Basically, what we’re seeing is the possible rising dominance of Forests in block constructed.  Some might say that Forests also dominated Odyssey-block, but I (and quite a few others) would contend that it was the Islands that came with those Forests that made for the most dominant deck in that format. 


Does that preclude the other decks I mentioned at the beginning of this from being playable?  In a word, no; there’s simply a great deal more options than were apparent around the time of the Invitational, where it looked like it was going to be a two or three-deck format.  Eternal Witness has even made it into Tooth and Nail itself, providing an almost ridiculous engine to keep spitting huge creatures out of your deck.  I really think that mono-red is probably a strong contender, and I won’t be too surprised to see a black deck pop up in the near future, probably sporting Death Cloud and Terror, as well as other forms of removal; I’m actually waiting for it to arrive as a U/B deck, to utilize Echoing Truth, Condescend, and Thirst.


I’m planning on putting more time into block over the next week, along with another attempt at running Witness in standard.  That investigative journalism is also simply going to have to wait a while, due to issues with time.  I’d like to apologize to everyone for being a day late on this article; I have been a little inundated with things in reality, and really didn’t get to put in the kind of work that I wanted to.  Hopefully, I can get a little more on the ball over the weekend.


And as a final note on the way out…


“Let’s go! We’re running Currahee!”


Jonathan Pechon
Sigmund’ on IRC (EFNet)
Sigmund on Modo

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