I’ve been on the grind for years it seems as I have been playing this game for more than half my life. I’ve qualified for US Nationals 4 out of the last 5 years as well as Pro Tour San Diego (which I played but scrubbed out). I placed in the Top 16 at Grand Prix DC to qualify for Pro Tour Amsterdam (which I had to skip for work reasons), and finally I top 8’ed US Nationals in 2010. Currently, I’m just another grinder trying to rack up them Planeswalker Points to receive a coveted invite and plane ticket to Pro Tour Honolulu next year. There is much of the season to go, but I’ve tried to come out of the gates with a decent start, and currently sit 35th in the world.
That aside, I can honestly say that it’s been a while since I have actually enjoyed going to and playing at a Prerelease (aside from the Scars of Mirrodin Prerelease, which I was lucky enough to Spellsling at). However, since I wanted to experience the wonder that is Innistrad, I decided to hit up my local shop (Jiffy Photo and Collectibles) and paid for a full weekend of Prerelease events and hunting for Planeswalker Points (read: Wizards hooked me into paying out 75 for two Sealed’s and two Drafts, well played Wizards). The sealed portions went well enough for me as I 5-0’ed both, and in the draft portions ended up 3-1-1 and 2-2 (the second draft was a four color train wreck as I originally thought certain colors were open, but they just dried up on me). I really enjoyed this set as a limited format as I felt that there were a ton of card interactions and decisions at every point of the game (at one point I was playing around a Rebuke, Snapcaster Mage, Dissipate, Lost into Mists, and the new flashback Wrath at the same time… let’s just say game one ended in my favor with 10 minutes left on the clock).
All of that aside, I am extremely excited to jump into the world of Constructed magic. While my usual viewpoint is that Constructed is like going to school and Drafting is like skipping class; we have a new format to explore kiddies. Everybody and their mother has probably (and by probably, read: DEFINITELY) talked about how great Snapcaster Mage and Liliana of the Veil are; this will not be that article (SPOILER ALERT: Snapcaster Mage will still be mentioned/played). I have picked up quite the reputation as a U/R Mage (or addict to some). I can’t stress enough how excited I was when I caught wind of Sulfur Falls. With the rotation of Scalding Tarn, it was only fitting that U/R picked up a Dual land even if this land doesn’t thin your deck or fill your graveyard for your Grim Lavamancer (let’s face it: if you’re playing red, you are more than likely going to be playing Grim Lavamancer).
With a new format new decks and old decks will be moving from fringe to some form of tier status. Unforunately, we can only speculate what will be good and apart from the Blade decks, Tempered Steel, U/B (in some form), and Birthing Pod decks; the format is still wide open. Keep in mind though that multiple sets are rotating and being replaced by only one. With that in mind, let’s jump into the tank…
Ahh yes… a U/R Control Deck… The numbers are tentative and even some of the card choices, but let’s dive in:
1 Consecrated Sphinx/ 1 Inferno Titan: We’re splitting between the two in a wide open format , they each have their own utility. While we lose card filtering with the rotation of Preordain, we aren’t really on the “tap-6-mana-on-turn-6” plan, and our end-game creatures are probably going to be coming down around turns 10+
4 Snapcaster Mage: In a “draw-go” style deck with 14 Instants and 5 Sorceries, Snapcaster Mage pulls his weight in full, giving you many options throughout the course of the game. But as I said earlier, this isn’t an article on how good the mage is, we already know this.
4 Mana Leak/ 3 Dissipate/ 2 Psychic Barrier/ 2 Negate: 11 Counterspells ensures that we should be able to resolve our threats or help us get to the late game. Mana Leak goes without explanation, but the numbers on the others may need some explaining. Dissipate is a nice hard counter that also has the nescessary clause of exiling the spell in a format that seems to be moving towards new/old kid on the block: “Solar Flare”. Pyschic Barrier seems awesome in a format full of Snapcaster Mages and Negate gives us a couple of hard counters for, well… non-creature spells…
2 Dismember/2 Incinerate: This is likely wrong, but I feel that 4 Dismember will be too much life paid. I’m splitting between the two as we WILL need instant speed removal on things that get through our counter wall and board-wipes.
2 Arc Trail/ 3 Slagstorm: With the rotation of Pyroclasm, these are our go-to board wipes. They give us needed flexibility beyond removal by dealing with opposing Planeswalkers in a pinch or giving us the reach we need to finish off our opponent once a few hits from Snapcaster, Koth, or any other combination gets our opponents low enough. The name of the game is flexibility and between Arc Trail and Slagstorm, we have options.
4 Think Twice: Think Twice in a draw-go style deck needs little explanation
3 Koth of the Hammer/1 Karn, Liberated/1 Chandra, the Firebrand: Koth is probably the biggest reason that we are playing red (and not just because I’m a sucker for U/R, although this obviously plays a factor). The mana base may very well be incorrect and completely greedy with 4x Inkmoth Nexus, but as this deck was built on mostly theory rather than any testing, the manabase can always be worked on. More often though, Koth will end up either allowing us to jump the curve with our spells or just attacking for 4 into another Planeswalker (read: Veil’s don’t block Hammers very well). Karn is the ultimate end game trump of a planeswalker as we witnessed when Ali Aintrazi showed just how mean a Karn can be at US Nationals earlier this year. And with our removal spells and draw spells, Chandra, the Firebrand means double your pleasure AND double your fun.
This intro is just to get the cogs turning and show the possibilities that even just a few cards have given us with States just around the corner. U/W and U/B have a lot of shiny new toys, but they are not the only control decks in town (although each one definitely has their strengths. I’m a huge fan of Despise). Before I leave you all though, I can’t help but mention a card that I can not wait to try and break and that is Burning Vengeance. This card…is….AWESOME…
Until next time,
Follow UR Bliss…
Tim “Flip” Sussino