I played Esper at our inaugural Tiny Leaders tournament (Or 3DH as our TO refers to it) and while Thopter/Sword is a bloody good combo, the manabase was complicated (and expensive). In fact every deck’s mana, bar one, seemed pretty complicated. This video should explain my thought process as the name ‘Blood Moon’ entered my head:
And this list was born:
Main Lands Side
Preordain Sulpher Falls Red Elemental Blast
Fire/Ice 4 Mountain Pyroblast
Sudden Demise Flooded Strand Anger of the Gods
Counter Spell Waistland Negate
Think Twice 7 Islands Elixir of Immortality
Mizzium Morters Delta Graf Digger’s Cage
Snappy Foothills Pithing Needle
Shackles Desolate Lighthaus Ye olde fork’ed bolt
Manaleak Steam Vents Tormod’s Crypt
Miscalculation Command Tower Flash Freeze
Cyclonic Whifft Some stuff I was missing:
Counterflux Vermillion Click
True Name Maybe Impulse
Dragon Master Outcast Maybe Kargan Dragon Lord
Magus of the Moon
Hinder Nin, The Pain Artist
Miss Tickle (Tutor)
Please excuse any typos; I assure you only half are deliberate.
I play Nin in duel occasionally so I’ve got a rough idea how to play this and it always warms the cockles of heart when an opponent picks her up for the first time and goes “Oh, I guess you can ping my creatures.” The goal of the deck is resolve a moon effect against the format’s greedy manabases and get free wins, while Nin draws you binders worth of cards to counter/nuke everything else. Basically, the more colours you see on a general the happier you should be. Seems fair.
I run scalable wraths rather than tiny sweepers like Pyroclasm and Whip Flare because I dread the higher toughness of rock style decks like Anafenza. Graf Diggers + Anger of the Gods is a concession to all the bloody Ayesha decks I saw the other week (can’t blame them, cool character). Blasts are for Geist and help vs blue in general. Tormod’s helps vs shenanigans. Elixir of Immortality is for the two mill decks that telegraphed themselves in the chat before the event. Counter magic also a good bonus here. Pithing needle does work as and when. The only thing I’m disappointed about is that Ruination costs 4. That would have been fun.
Expecting to see Geist, lands, elves, Ayesha, Shu Yen (tempo and storm) + mystery mill decks. Maybe MBC or Kemba (Really want to see Dack vs Kemba).
Names have been withheld to protect the innocent.
Monoblue Mill helmed my Ambassador Laqautus
Game 1. Blood Moon is clearly off to fantastic start. Fortunately he doesn’t have many blockers for my meagre pressure and my superior counter magic had game this in hand. After an epoch or two I finally have him dead on board only to get cocky and forget the flashback clause on some weird Innistrad mill card. Whoops!
Game 2 was even slower. The only exciting thing to happen for the first seven turns was his resolving a Mindshrieker, which I promptly Shackled. Sadly he had Top next turn to control my Shrieker activations and prevent it getting out of hand… which was working right up until he got greedy and decided to pop Top for a counter spell in response to my bait. Top promptly gets milled and Mindshrieker goes hog wild.
Game 3. We go to time with him 1 mana short of going off with Basalt Monolith. Oh, how I chuckled.
U/B Sygg Tribal Zombies
Blood Moon why?
Sygg is a brew from a friend of mine who always has a unique build on the go and who would probably rather eat a wasp sandwich than net deck.
Game 1 is slow – with him developing a board of smallish creatures, while I resolve True Name with counter back up and Sudden Demise in hand. This worked out poorly for the zombies with a 3-4-1 in my favour. Dack then comes down and begins digging. Opponent does pull an out for True Name in the form of Sudden Spoiling, but I have a counter for the removal spell that follows and things go south quick.
Game 2. My opponent has a cheeky turn 1 Phyrexian Reclamation, but promptly gets stuck on two lands. Meanwhile I’m digging through my deck like a traction engine. He manages to get up to three lands only to be met by mystical tutor for Anger of the Gods. He never draws another land while I lay down Dragon Master Outcast with massive protection. The lands continue to slink around on the bottom of his deck and concession soon follows.
Disappointing game as that Reclamation was pretty spicy and we had a great match that went to the wire the week before.
Thassa Monoblue control.
Game 1. I get a mirror of my previous opponent’s game and get stuck on two lands for the first 5 turns. I should have conceded on the spot as my opponents win condition is literal to wait until you deck out. Seriously. Elixir of Immortality was the win con.
Game 2. First game lasts so long we go to time almost as soon as game 2 begins. Nothing to write about here.
Finally, the match up I’ve been waiting for! These were definitely the best games of the night, a lot of back and forth and some lovely banter.
Game 1. Stuck on two lands, but I leak his turn three Geist and top deck the Sulpher Falls that enables me to cast… BLOOD MOON! And he only has 1 basic in play!
Opponent is not impressed and calls me something that sounded a lot like ‘Vicious Bar-Steward,’ which is odd as I’ve never worked in a pub in my life. Anyway, I decide the best thing to do here is double down with a Magus of the Moon and start poking away at his life total (my only regret is that I didn’t have a Back to Basics so I could triple down). Unfortunately he top decks the island he needs to recast Geist and I’m left with the serious danger that his next turn might see a pair of boots on it, so I throw value out the window with a Rolling Earthquake for two. The next thing I know he has another plains to Council’s Judgment my other moon effect. Oh no! We ponder the morality of this decision for a while and finally agree to disagree.
With an empty hand it’s time for Nin to try and dig me out of this mess. I pass, only for Clique to flash in and mess about with my hand and life total. His subsequent SoF&I threatens to put the game away, but a redirected sword trigger sees Nin popped for four, which nets me… Dack Fayden! Dack + Counterflux back-up subsequently net me a magic sword, which certainly looks good with the True Name I’ve drawn. However, my opponent has also been fondling the top-deck luck-sack and manages to suit up Geist with Steel of the Godhead, walloping me for 13. I’m in the tank, but what’s that waiting for me on top? Sudden Demise! Bye-bye Geist! You cost 9cc now! Equip True Name, swing, bye-bye Clique!
Game 2. I keep a greedy hand with only two islands, but also with Preordain and a Brainstorm. My opponent proceeds to lay down a turn one Pithing Needle naming… Nin! What a charming young man. Preordain sees Red Elemental Blast and Pyroblast, which I must both sadly bottom to draw into more islands. I manage to hold off Geist with counter magic, but a Stone Forge sneaks through searching up SoF&I. Fortunately Brainstorm picks me up a Wooded Foothills, which enables a timely top deck appearance from… Dack Fayden! Dack soon dies to an irate Kor stone smith, but the damage is done as Magus of the Moon picks up the unattended sword. Concession swiftly follows as my clock and CA go through the roof.
Flukey top decks for the win!
What we learned
Well, my plan to prey on greedy manabases didn’t work out too well this week, which is a shame as there were two Marath decks and a Lands deck amongst the competitors. C’est la vie. If I were to change anything it would probably be to swap Force Spike for Mental Misstep, shoe-horn in Clique Boom-Boom and maybe take Graf Digger’s out the side (Also I’d play better and have fewer two land hands).
Apart from the decks mentioned above there was also a Toshiro (control), tricked out Ezuri, budgeted Eldamari, and an Alesha (aggro) in attendance. Unfortunately, all-in-Geist, Kira merfolk and Shu-Yen aggro had work or social commitments.
Musings on the Format
This is going on the assumption that the format as played at your LGS is a competitive one, as it’s far more like Dual or Legacy than EDH. I like brewing for this format and it’s the first thing in a long while to actually encourage me to frequent my local store again. The 3cc and highlander rule combination can lead to some very interesting card choices and deck building solutions; there’s a caveat to this though, you must first ask yourself three questions. Can I answer Geist? Can I answer Ezuri? Can I actually play against Lands? If the answer is ‘no’ go back the drawing board. Those decks will bloody annihilate you otherwise. It’s what’s me holding back from building a decent Hannah deck, as I just can’t see myself beating Geist or Elves without a cheap effective sweeper (Ratchet Bomb does not pass the ‘effective’ criteria for me).
My other issue is that not all commanders are created equal and this does lead to some awkward restrictions. Your commander is the one resource you’re always guaranteed access to, so you need to have them helm a build that puts their unique characteristics to maximum game-breaking use. While there are supposedly 200 possible commanders, since 80% of those are total guff (and not the good sort like Commodore Guff) you’re really looking at between 20/30. Furthermore the commander’s abilities typically bottleneck deck construction in a certain direction unless you’re playing something truly degenerate like Lands, where they only serve as colour enabler/coaster. Which is easy to illustrate below with a nod to Sergio Leone’s classic spaghetti western.
The Good: Anafenza is a beast and easily slots into an aggro, midrange or control build depending on your tastes.
The Bad: You don’t really want to build a deck around Ichiga, Who Topples Oaks, unless there’s some splendid two piece combo he’s a part of and easily assembled in monogreen that I’m not aware of.
And the Ugly: Sygg. A good general, but one that only really fits into an aggro/tempo build and is the only legal B/U legend I’m aware of.
So there’s no real U/B general that suits a control play-style, while some colours simply don’t have a single decent 3cc legend, or one at all in the case of BUG or 5cc.
It’s still far too early to really discuss whether the format has been ‘solved’ in a similar way that standard or modern are and I think I’m going to have a lot of fun while the format pans out over the next month or so in my local area, but that’s probably because I deck build like the Grinch.
Take it away Creedence