The Japan Metagame Diaries: Blockhead

Life’s been busy here in Nagoya. Working full time, traveling on the weekends . . . I haven’t really had the chance to keep up with my training for the Pro Tour in May. I’ve played very little standard, some modern, and I’m just now getting some practice in with draft and sealed. I played in my first GPT for Grand Prix Nagoya today, looking to get in some practice, and I finished 1-4 drop with a very dismal UR tempo deck. I lacked a lot of power and couldn’t finish games off, but the deck had some synergy. If I had mulliganed a little better to keep good hands, and played at 100%, I might have been able to finish with a winning record but that just wasn’t in the cards today. Oh well. There’s a Pro Tour Qualifier coming up next weekend, and I’m definitely going to be practicing for that and draft all day on Friday with friends.

That’s not what I’m here to talk about today though. Today I’m going to talk about Block constructed. For those of you that have never heard of block before, it’s where you build a deck using ONLY cards from that block. An example would be the Return to Ravnica block, which was Return to Ravniva, Gatecrash, and Dragon’s Maze. I usually don’t touch that format because there is no reason to, but since Pro Tour Journey of Nyx is half block constructed and half booster draft, it’s a good idea to start playing around with a few ideas. I’ve talked to friends and looked online at a few places and have found out that the current ‘best decks’ are mono black devotion, GR, UG Flash, Naya midrange, and Junk reanimator. I’ve decided to choose the two decks that I feel I have some experience playing with already, and I also put together my own brew to try out. Of course these decks will change come May when the last expansion is released, but for now it’s a good way to get some experience with the format. 

Mono Black Devotion

Mono Black
75 cards, 15 sideboard
2 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
18 Swamp
4 Temple of Deceit

24 lands

4 Returned Phalanx
4 Nighthowler
2 Erebos, of the Dead
2 Abhorrent Overlord
4 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
4 Herald of Torment

20 creatures

2 Pharika’s Cure
4 Hero’s Downfall
4 Read the Bones
2 Whip of Erebos
4 Thoughtseize

16 other spells

2 Pharika’s Cure
3 Dark Betrayal
3 Drown in Sorrow
3 Bile Blight
3 Gild

1 Champion of Stray Souls

15 sideboard cards

To me, mono black devotion in block constructed is almost as powerful as the standard version.   You still have Hero’s Downfall, Thoughtseize, Gray Merchant of Asphodel, and Erebos, God of the Dead. You have to make due with a few knock offs though in order to get the same kind of function from it though. Read the Bones is a poor man’s Underworld Connections, but it still does a good job of giving you card advantage. You lose cards like Nightveil Specter and Pack Rats as well, but for what their worth, I think Herald of Torment and Nighthowler work pretty well in this build. You can put a lot of power on the table in a relatively short amount of time if you bestow them on a creature. Abhorrent Overlord is another fun card for block. He drops onto the battlefield and puts at least 2 other creatures onto the battlefield, but where he really shines is when you return him from the dead with Whip of Erebos. Not only does the whip give you more devotion, it also gives you much needed life gain after paying life for Read the Bones or offering it to Herald of Torment. 

The one thing I really don’t like about the block version though is the removal package. There aren’t any cards like Doom Blade or Ultimate Price, and you’re stuck with cards like Pharika’s Cure instead. Yes you have access to Bile Blight and Drown in Sorrow which are pretty good against smaller decks, but I wonder if the deck will have some problems playing against GR monsters when it has to block a Stormbreath Dragon or other equally as big creature. I hope that Journey into Nyx gives the deck slightly better removal. The sideboard is definitely going to change when it gets closer to the event. This deck might work well with another splash later on. UB with cards like Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver don’t seem like such a bad idea. We’ll see. 

GR Ramp

G/r Ramp
75 cards, 15 sideboard
6 Mountain
4 Temple of Abandon
12 Forest
3 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx

25 lands

4 Stormbreath Dragon
4 Polis Crusher
3 Voyaging Satyr
1 Xenagos, God of Revels
4 Courser of Kruphix
3 Polukranos, World Eater
2 Arbor Colossus
4 Sylvan Caryatid
3 Boon Satyr

28 creatures

4 Lightning Strike
3 Xenagos, the Reveler

7 other spells

2 Arbor Colossus
3 Anger of the Gods
2 Bow of Nylea
3 Time to Feed
3 Mistcutter Hydra
2 Fade into Antiquity

15 sideboard cards

Green/Red is the king of raw power. This deck has ramp, it has planeswalkers, and it some pretty scary creatures. While there is no Domri Rade or Ghor-Clan Rampager in this deck, it’s nothing to be scoffed at. This deck good enough to be taken to a standard tournament and win it all (well, at least FNMs). Sylvan Caryatid and Voyaging Satyr ramp you into larger spells, while Courser of Kruphix gains you life and helps you with your land drops at the same time. By turn 3, you could potentially see yourself with a Polukranos, World Eater, Xenagos, the Reveler, or Polis Krusher. I expect Polis Krusher to see a lot of play in constructed, taking out opposing Boon Satyrs, Eidolon of Countless Battles, and any other enchantments on your opponent’s side. Arbor Colossus will take care of any flyers your opponent has (which aside from Herald of Torment and Stormbreath Dragon there aren’t that many to worry about), and Stormbreath Dragon is both fast and deadly. I decided to put a Xenagos, God of Revels in the deck instead of a 4th planeswalker, and I’m also using Lightning Strike as removal. I’ve actually been debating whether or not to use Magma Jet to help with my draws. Haven’t decided yet. 

I’ve also gone with Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx in the main board to help power up all these monstrous creatures too. It won’t have those killer turn 3’s like red devotion has, but it will be useful none the less. The sideboard seems fine right now, but I’m not sure what the metagame is going to look like that weekend. Again, this is something that can change.

RW Midrange/Control

RW Control
75 cards, 15 sideboard
12 Mountain
9 Plains
4 Temple of Triumph

25 lands

4 Hopeful Eidolon
1 Heliod, God of the Sun
4 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
4 Stormbreath Dragon
1 Purphoros, God of the Forge

14 creatures

2 Hammer of Purphoros
4 Chained to the Rocks
3 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
4 Lightning Strike
4 Magma Jet
4 Anger of the Gods

21 other spells

2 Spear of Heliod
4 Last Breath
3 Revoke Existence
3 Fated Conflagration
2 Fated Retribution
1 Heliod, God of the Sun

15 sideboard cards

My last deck today is one of my own builds. I sat down the other week and tried to come up with a unique deck idea for the Pro Tour that tried to combat everything in the block constructed format. What I ended up with was a RW build that wants to be midrange, but for the most part is control. It plays 16 removal cards total in the main board. Anger of the Gods takes out any mana dorks or small heroic creatures, Magma Jet lets you scry to help your draw, Lightning Strike does 3 damage at instant speed . . . but probably one of the best removal cards in this combination is Chained to the Rocks. It takes out any threat you may encounter, including gods. 

The idea behind the deck is to keep the board clear of creatures until you can repopulate it with Elspeth, Sun’s Champion, Brimaz, King of Oreskos, or Golem tokens. If you have a Purphoros, God of the Forge in play, you can get the benefit of dealing damage to them while also stopping any damage coming at you. As you can see, aside from the Hopeful Eidolon, most creatures have 4 toughness. This is to allow my creatures to survive against Anger of the Gods. By doing so, I can also activate Elspeth’s minus ability to destroy all creatures with power greater than 4, thus wiping out ALL of their creatures that weren’t hit by the Anger. Not great if you have a Stormbreath Dragon in play, but if you need something to stop their onslaught, it will definitely even the playing field. The deck is going to need some testing, but I definitely think it has some merits. If the Boros god is any good, it could really take off. 

Test, Test, Test

Now that I have my decks, it’s time to test my butt off before the Pro Tour in May. I plan on getting in at least 50 games with each deck against the other decks by then, and hopefully I’ll become a pro at whichever one I choose. I’m sure the last set will give us a few good cards that will give us even more options to consider, but until then it’s time to learn the format. What do you think of the builds? Do you have any suggestions? If you’ve been playing block constructed on MTGO, I’d like to hear some of your thoughts on the format and which cards/decks to look out for. 

I think there are still some more possible decks out there, and I will continue to brew to see what I come up with. Perhaps Master of Waves in a UB control deck or a UW devotion build with Thassa, God of the Sea? Or what about a BR minotaur deck? They’re all possible at this point. Given the limited amount of free time I have due to work, I’ll be testing these decks out whenever and wherever I can. I’m even going to try them out at Friday Night Magic. It won’t be as effective as playing them online with pros, but I think the training will still help.

I want to apologize again for my recent lack of posts. Work is finally slowing down so you can expect some more articles soon. I’ll be back on Sunday with a full tournament report on the Pro Tour Qualifier in Nagoya, as well as how I’ve been preparing for the block portion of the Pro Tour. Until then, thanks for reading!