Hello everyone. Following in the footsteps of Chubbyrain, I thought I'd post a deck that I have been playing with recently that draws upon several notable sources to form something I have had moderate success with in paper (as I dont play MODO).
The inspiration for this deck is two-fold:
- It was conceived as a test run of the Reid Duke "Bob's Revenge" deck at VSL finals this year, which was geared to beat Shops.
- A look at a blue control shell which abstains from card disadvantage in the form of Force of Will. Brian Kelly espousing the view, perhaps partially in jest, frequently on his stream.
Upon lamenting on several things that Brian Kelly, Stephen Menendian and others have suggested in their streams, I thought to look at several specific angles that are rarely tried in my meta.
Below is how I view the deck when putting it together.
Mana (24 Total):
1 Black Lotus
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Sapphire
2 Bloodstained Mire
4 Polluted Delta
1 Scalding Tarn
1 Strip Mine
1 Tropical Island
3 Underground Sea
2 Volcanic Island
Creatures Mana (Total 3) :
3 Deathrite Shaman
Creatures Card Advantage (Total 9):
4 Dark Confidant
1 Dire Fleet Daredevil
3 Leovold, Emissary of Trest
1 Snapcaster Mage
Library Manipulation/Filtration (Total 6)
1 Ramunap Excavator
1 Sylvan Library
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Time Walk
Spells Cards Advantage (Total 4)
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Kolaghan's Command
2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Disruption (Total 14)
2 Null Rod
4 Mental Misstep
3 Lightning Bolt
Sideboard (Situational Answers for Specific Decks):
Dredge/Oath (Total 7)
4 Grafdigger's Cage
3 Yixlid Jailer
Shops (Total 3/6)
3 Ancient Grudge
Blue Control (Total 1)
1 Thrun, the Last Troll
Blue Combo (Total 2)
Flexible Slots (2)
Either Abrupt Decay/Ravenous Trap/Null Rod
Specific Cards and why they're chosen:
Dark Confidant although the format has seen an uptick in Swords to Plowshares as an answer to creatures, the restriction of Thorn as also seen the demise of Eldrazi variants. Most blue decks rely heavily or Pyroblast to deal with recursive card drawing and/or are prepared for spell based card drawing (blue cantrips, black dmg cantrips). Even drawing a single spell ultimately 2for1s your opponent, which fits the theme of the deck.
Leovold as most know, powerful when resolved but struggles in a Pyroblast heavy meta, however if on the board fundamentally operates as a 2for1 when removed and therefore is included. Paradoxical and other decks that eschew removal for speed, tend to get hampered by Null Rod to being with, and then backbroken by a resolved Leo.
Snapcaster and Daredevil Snapcaster is primarily used to flash back Thoughtseize (and of course Ancestral) and is a known quantity, however Daredevil usually focuses on taking opponents Preordains/Ponders and other sorcery based cantrips. 2:1 first strike deals very well with tokens. The red casting cost is a slight disadvantage, but the fact that it does not need to pitch to FoW allows it a smoother role in this deck.
Ramunap Excavator Obviously included as a land recursion/destruction engine, but also doubles up as a filtration card with fetch land shuffling. Brian Kelly also suggested in one of his streams that it could be used as a Sylvan Library enabler through shuffling, and I tend to agree.
Sylvan Library Primary focuses on being Dark Confidant number 5, however can be utilised as a pseudo-top to filter cards when life is low and Confidant is in play. Furthermore being (G) helps with dodging Pyroblast. Due to Confidant vying for the same precious life resource, this card is not an automatic -8 life like in most decks.
Kolaghan's Command All three modes 2for1 opponents, although with Swords to Plowshares the main removal in the format the returning of creatures is less prevalent than perhaps in Modern/Legacy.
Null Rod As the meta has shifted from classic storm (dark ritual based) towards Paradoxical Variety this cards seems ideal for the meta.
Pyroblast is in the deck to fight FoW on the stack and to limit Blue Planeswalkers dominance. It performs a double duty of being able to battle on the stack or agains permanents.
What cards are not included:
Force of Will I have always thought that BUG decks and 4C decks are more akin to Jund in Modern/Legacy with restricted draw spells baked in to the shell. The role of the deck is to fight either draw spells on the stack (of which the majority are (U)) or fight permanents 'on the ground'. Heavy removal suite is intended to 1for1 whilst the decks own permanents 2for1 (Confidant, Sylvan, Snap, Daredevil, Leo). The biggest challenge of course is turn one combo; however empirical evidence has shown that the blowout turn ones (Necropotance, Mentor, Tinker etc) have seen less play with respective bannings and the reduction in storm (3% of meta).
Abrupt Decay Primarily used to combat Game 2 Oath, however with the advancements that Brian Kelly et al have been making in the 'castability' of threats, the removal of an Oath may not be as fundamental as in previous Grisel heavy metas. Most success vs oath is to be had when Orchard is in play and tapping gives you cards with Leo in play.
Treasure Cruise/Dig Through Time the obvious dyssynergy with Dark Confidant is too high a risk, particularly Game 1 shops.
Dack the lack of inclusion of Dack is primarily due to the fact that this type of deck is attempting to limit the use of artifacts through Null Rod and Ancient Grudge. This is even more true in the Reid Duke versions which has a further two Null Rods in the flex spots on the sideboard. Once again, Brian Kelly recently suggested that the current metagame is 'all about' who steals who's artifacts. Fundamentally this deck is limiting the potential for your opponents to 2for1 you through Null Rods and Leovolds. Thus, moxes are usually only played in to an open board to facilitate a backbreaking Confidant turn 1, or vs Shops.
Ob Nixilis Reignited perhaps the most interesting card as a Confidant/Sylvan Library replacement, with a baked in win condition vs most blue decks via the ultimate. Nevertheless too expensive to cast without sol ring/mana crypt and the active plan of limiting mana through Null Rod.
Shops In the 4 Null Rod, 3 Ancient Grudge version the shops matchup is the epitomy of 2for1 vs the opponent. Each card is intended as an efficient a threat as possible. Ramunap can provide relief from mana denial which is bolstered by Deathrite. Personal experience has shown that cutting Null Rods to 2 can be paradoxically beneficial vs shops and counterproductive vs Paradoxical Outcome. The two flex spots in the SB are specific tuning for the meta.
Dredge Game 1 is a bye for them. Personal experience has shown that Jailer is hard to remove post board for Dredge as it dodges misstep. A lack of 0 mana interaction is worrisome, and perhaps should be 2x Ravenous Trap.
Landstill Thrun is quite the beating, as only Supreme Verdict removes him (Balance is rarely played nowadays with the restriction of Mentor). A total of 5 green mana sources in the deck (and 3 deathrites) usually prove good enough, however I would rarely cast it in to open double (U) for Mindbreak Trap, or pass without 1(G) in to Supreme Verdicts.
Blue Control Fundamentally the Jundesque strategy is the real winner. The concept is to play recursive card advantage permanent threats in non-blue colours to strand Pyroblasts and Flusters etc in hand, whilst slowly 2for1ing until landing a Leo or Jace.
Oath perhaps the most intriguing and fundamentally flawed matchup agains any creature based control decks. Oath being off colour for pyroblast means that it cannot be effectively removed from play without the inclusion of abrupt decay (which is one of three options for the SB (2 Ravenous Trap/2 Null Rod/2 Abrupt Decay being the usual changes). However heavy artifact disruption can stymie their mana development if the 'casting of creatures' plan is adopted post board. It is most definitely correct to Ancient Grudge lotuses and Null Rod early.
Game 1 you are ultimately hoping to 2for1 and are an underdog.
Game 2 the plan most revolves around whether your reading of the game suggests that the opponent is attempting to cast creatures vs oath them in. Artifact removal attempts to dissuade the casting and graffdiggers the latter option.
Game 3 is once again a mingame.
With the ubiquity of Force of Will as a pillar of blue, the threat of the spell forces opponents to miscalculate their timing of action. This deck attempts to eschew it by:
a) fighting permanents on the ground, through instant based removal.
b) fight card drawing on the stack through 0 or 1 mana counter spells.
c) fight 'off the stack' (in opponents hand) with thoughtseize.
What this deck is not; is a turbo xerox approach. A land light hand on turn 1 without a Sylvan/Confidant usually means poor draws for the rest of the game. Thoughtseize on 1 is almost always correct to Deathrite on 1, as the incremental damage/life gain is more important long term than powering out a turn two Leo.
Hopefully this review and primer has been helpful and elucidates some of my thinking on the complexities of Forceless decks and how the exclusion of a powerful format staple can facilitate a rethinking of an archetype.
I welcome all suggestions.