Jonathan Pechon

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Jonathan Pechon's
Therapy Sessions

Blocking Out

8.05.04  Itís turning into a pretty nice day in Block-constructed land, where thereís practically a buffet-line of decks to choose from.  Step on up and take a ganderÖweíre going to look at a few cards that have made their way into one or more decks this season, and weíll see what you might be able to do with them.




It seems that this card, all by itself, has created a number of decks with control elements in them; this includes the U/G Crystal Shard deck, Tooth and Nail, and the U/W control decks with Vedalken Shackles.  This is pretty much the only efficient form of countermagic available in the current environment, dealing with early threats during the first few turns of the game.  People will seem to counter just about anything with this at times in order to be able to scry into better cards in their deck during the early parts of the game; itís especially effective against decks with low numbers of threats, such as regular Tooth and Nail.


What do you do when you see Ux open across the table from you?  The hardest rule to follow, of course: be patient.  Affinity should try to avoid walking its Qumulox into countermagic; the same can be said of mono red and its Arc Sloggers and U/Wís  Pristine Angels.  U/G Shard seems like it can be especially vulnerable, as it wants to keep casting spells early in the game; you can sneak a threat or two in under their radar.  If that doesnít work out, either try to draw out the Condescend (or Last Word, if it comes to that) with a less vital spell before hitting them where it counts.


Furnace Whelp


The common reaction to this from some people seems to be, ďHuh?Ē  However, this serves a similar role as Qumulox does for Affinity against a number of decks:  a non-artifact, highly aggressive evasion creature that a large number of decks simply do not have a way to deal with.  Big Red can put this guy out on turn three or four, then swing from the heels until they are able to finish the job with some burn spells.  One of the biggest things to keep in mind is the prevalence of Echoing Truth in a number of decks; when attacking, be sure to try to keep enough mana open to recast this guy if it gets bounced.  This ensures you can net card advantage even if this gets countered.


The decks that are going to have problems with this simply do not tend to have maindeck answers to this; the green and U/G decks need access to either Triskelion or Duplicant in order to deal with this guy once it is in play.  Deciding when to bounce this should be gauged by the skill of your opponent; feel free to let a poor player tap themself out before you send this guy home to mama/papa.  U/W can (carefully) Shackles this guy, or simply resolve Angel.


Somber Hoverguard


This simply goes to dictate how Affinity has changed in the last few months.  This card and its bigger brother Qumulox have joined the deck as a way to avoid the huge amount of hate that flies this deckís way; try Shattering that.  A common question seems to be, ďWhy not just play Broodstar instead of Qumulox?Ē  The Qumulox is cheaper than the Ďstar, and it doesnít suddenly die if a Furnace Dragon comes into play.  The Hoverguard seems to take the place of Myr Enforcer, which has just fallen into disfavor among a great many players; two months ago, suggesting you cut Enforcer might have been met with jeers and a slap upside the head, but he seems to be warming the bench nowadays.


Again, the green decks very infrequently seem to have a real answer for these types of fliers.  The red deck is happier to see the Hoverguard, since he dies to every burn spell in the deck; Qumulox, on the other hand, requires two cards to finish the job, whether itís Jet/Bolt or Shrapnel Blast.  These seem to be the second-tier targets for your removal oftentimes, coming behind the Ravager (and, occasionally, the Plated Ornithopter or Nexus) heading your way.


Eternal Witness


Blah, blah, blahÖIíve talked so much about this card already that itís absolutely silly.  However, it really does belong in every green deck.  Four of them.  In every deck.  No, Iím not stuttering.


While this might feel like the worst three-drop in the history of the Magic since the advent of the mana-curve, it does so many jobs that itís silly.  Without this, the Shard deck simply wouldnít exist; the ability to continually return countermagic or bounce or cards like Oxidize to your hand is 100% of the power of the deck.  On the other hand, Tooth and Nail uses this to fight through countermagic, or to enable a constant flow of Tooth and Nail to be cast turn after turn, which allows the deck to work around a number of unpleasant circumstances (such as Molder Slug).  The aggressive decks simply use the Witness to keep the gas flowing to their attack.


There really isnít a way to fight this unless you feel like bringing Scrabbling Claws in to try to keep their Ďyard empty.  The strongest hope that you can probably manage is to hope that your opponent doesnít draw too many of these; a multiple of these is probably indicative of a game that is going badly awry.


The Rest


There are a number of decks on the periphery of the metagame that really donít have significant strength against the field.  Iíve seen people trying to make March/Lattice work, but that doesnít really have sufficient power against a large number of decks to be able to hold up in a healthy metagame; it can be a real problem for Affinity or Big Red at times, though.


White weenie suffers from being susceptible to artifact hate as well as being unable to beat Affinity in a race a good deal of the time.  Zvi seems to believe that this has game against some decks, but I havenít seen evidence of this.  Bringer decks and Ironworks also seem to draw some people in with their allure, but they simply donít have what it takes to compete yet.


Hopefully, Iíve managed to mention most of the primary decks that are out there at the moment; playtesting with/against some of these hasnít really shown me a way outside of them, but Iím certainly not done yet.  Hopefully, Iíll wrangle something up thatís a little outside the metagame, but itís just going to take time.


As a final note, Iíd like to mention that this looks like itís going to be my last article for you guys here at Pojo. Iím going to be pursuing some other opportunities, so I wonít be completely goneÖbut thatís all Iíve got for now.  Iíd like to thank all of you whoíve emailed me over the last few months regarding articles, and hope that Iíll be able to hear more from all of you.


Until I see yíall later, take care, and keep having fun.


-Jonathan Pechon

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