rewind

The Best Blue Deck

Alright, enough Farseeking and Thragtusking, let’s play some Islands.  I played the 4 Color Reckoner Reanimator list in the Hollywood PTQ last weekend.  The deck was clearly a strong choice considering it put two people into top 8 and another one with a near miss (the second person who made top 8 scooped his opponent in after winning the match, for those who were there and did not see the second top 8 appearance of the deck).  I started off fine but succumbed to aggro decks killing me with haymakers, such as Thundermaw Hellkite and Hellrider, despite my deck accomplishing its goal of putting Angel of Serenities into play very quickly.  One of my opponents also played a Rest in Peace accompanied by an average curve of creatures- I stood no chance.  Last Saturday marked only the second time I registered a deck without Islands for the last two years.  Naturally, I was dissatisfied with my PTQ experience and hungered to outwit my opponents and resolve some Sphinx’s Revelations.  For this past week on Modo I have been grinding out games with Revelations and Snapcasters in hope of discovering a miracle of a blue deck that seems playable for GP Miami.

 

It didn’t take long for me to scrap the mono-Aetherling style UWR deck (a list can be found here).  This deck has zero positive matchups.   This deck supposedly crushes aggro into the ground with its infinite removal spells and planeswalkers.  The problem is that this style of UWR plays a very high land count, a lot of Think Twices, and quite  a few 5 mana+ cards that have no impact on the type of games the deck loses to aggro.  Furthermore, as has been restated again and again, the diversification of threats that are brought to the table is vast.  Too often would I kill all of my opponent’s guys and be left with my last card as a burn spell against my opponent’s top decked Reckoner, or Planeswalker, or Obzedat, or Assemble the Legion, etc..

 

The Augur, Snapcaster, Restoration Angel is where control decks have to be.  My win percentage increased drastically after I shifted to a proactive style of UWR featuring 3 Augur, 3 Snapcaster, 3 Restoration Angel, 1 Aetherling.  In over 30 games I killed a non-control opponent with Aetherling twice.  Aetherling did nothing but rot in my hand against Aggro and Midrange, so I found myself boarding it out in 75% of my matches.  Killing people with Restoration Angel was never a problem, especially after I added the 4th one in.  The way Revelation decks work are that you kill your opponent with Sphinx’s Revelation.  After Revelating for 4 or 5 cards you  either draw another Revelation and pull even further ahead in cards, or you draw an Angel or two and beat them down in chunks of 3 followed up with burn spells.  I would rather just have a 4th Revelation than any number of 6 drops main deck because Revelation not only puts away games, but it also helps the control player pull out of tight situations.  Aetherling cannot race anything in the format unless the control player is already ahead.  The amazing thing about Restoration Angel is that it doubles as a wincon and a protection spell.  The Angel trumps everything else in the format that costs 4 or less.  She road-blocks attackers while threatening Domri Rades and Sorins, yet is strong enough to close out games.  I want to draw Angels every single game.  The only matches I actually want true haymakers against are control.  So where did that leave my list?

 

 

Basically, this is the best 3-1 deck ever.  Every single daily event has the same formula.   Crush 3 people that have creatures and lose horribly to the one reanimator opponent, with the occasional coin-flip mirror match.  While a generally consistent 3-1 record is quite acceptable, never being able to streak to a 4-0 result is just not acceptable.  In reality, the positive winning percentage of UWR is heavily skewed by the MTGO metagame anyway, which is 50% Rg Aggro.  I feel very favored with UWR against Rg Aggro, but barely above even against the new Naya builds and any version of Aristocrats.  Obviously Junk is completely unwinnable, and now that 4C Reanimator is playing Acidic Slimes, the RIP plan out of the board is much weaker.

Something needed to change.  My deck just felt worse and less powerful than what everyone else was doing.  After perusing lists from the past dailies, I stumbled upon a gem.  Two players by the names of tefaru and Huggins each put up 4-0 results with strikingly similar UW Flash lists.  Hmmm…maybe this is the answer?  While I am not yet convinced the deck is a better choice than something without Islands, I am very convinced it is a great deal stronger than UWR.  After a few tweaks from the original lists, here is the list I have been playing for the last few days:

 

 

 

The deck aims to leave its options open by operating on the opponents turn with counterspells, bounce spells, and flash creatures.  Moorland Haunt in conjunction with Runechanter’s Pike is reminiscent of the Delver days of yore, and accompanied with Revelations, presents a lethal late game plan of attack.   UW Flash has a few selling points.  First of all, it has an actual card advantage engine in the form of the maximum number of Augurs and Snapcasters in combination with Thought Scours and Moorland Haunt.  While UWR feels like a random spattering of conditional removal plus some Think Twices and 6 drops, UW Flash feels like a well-oiled machine.  Renounce the Guilds is ridiculously good right now, and UW Flash takes full advantage of its versatility.  Here is the list of the most powerful and commonly played cards in the format that Renounce the Guilds happens to answer: Boros Reckoner, Falkenrath Aristocrat, Varolz, Sorin, Domri Rade, Olivia, Sire of Insanity, Voice of Resurgence, Obzedat, Huntmaster, Cartel Aristocrat.  Consider the variety of spells that the red splash version needs to clean up that collection of threats.  Consider the expensive and varying mana costs of those answers, as well as their limitations and inflexibility.  UWR is incredibly efficient at cleaning up the weak threats, but inept in answering the trickier menaces.  Burn spells do not phase an upticking Planeswalker, nor do they answer any of Aristocrats’ threats, nor do they answer a Sire.  So why doesn’t UWR just play Renounce the Guilds?  The answer, and my fault with the UWR version, is that it is a ton of 1 for 1s plus Think Twice and Revelation.   The deck needs more cohesiveness, not more 1 for 1s.  While Resto Angel and Augur’s potency in stunting early threats is diminished by the lackluster burn spells in UWR that already clean up the little guys, UW Flash does a phenomenal job of making the most out of all of its spells.  Why would I want to play Searing Spear and kill everything on sight when I can just block the little guys with Augurs, Snapcasters, and Angels?  Instead, UW Flash has a unique style to it that marks all of the decks that appeal to me.  The pilot has to evaluate the power of the enemy’s threats, judge their importance to the game state, and then decide to what extent resources should be allocated to make a response.

Aside from those more technical and stylistic advantages, UW Flash also has a stronger position in the metagame. I’d like to go over the popular matchups, how to play them, and how to sideboard for them.

4 Color Reanimator:  This is a hopeless matchup turned positive with the transition to UW Flash.  While 4C Reanimator is always scary because of its pure power, I actively want to play against it with UW Flash.  This matchup is a classic battle of counterspells versus big scary monsters.  I have found that the myriad of cantrips and counterspells effectively contain most of the deck, and I can’t help but smile when my opponent jumps through hoops to put Sire of Insanity into play only to have it smoothly answered by Renounce the Guilds.  The matchup hinges upon the effectiveness of Lingering Souls and UW Flash’s ability to answer Cavern: Angel.  Restoration Angel does wonders in dampening the Reanimator deck’s early Souls pressure.  The thing about 4C Reanimator is that it has trouble accelerating into a Cavern: Angel because its only mana acceleration is the Farseeks that not all lists are playing.  For 4C Reanimator to sculpt its ideal game plan against UW Flash, they have to durdle, a lot, and by that time a really sharp pike is ready to be suited up for massive chunks of damage.  If 4C Reanimator takes the plan of just pitching gas (fatties or rites) to their lootings to accelerate their game plan, then a few counters into a Revelation gets the job done.  Post board Clone and Purify is a huge beating.

+1 Renounce the Guilds

+2 Purify the Grave

+2 Clone

+1 Oblivion Ring

+1 Supreme Verdict

-1 Unsummon

-1 Augur of Bolas

-1 Snapcaster Mage

-2 Azorius Charm

-1 Runechanter’s Pike

I usually trim on Augurs and Snaps when adding the permanent cards in the sideboard.  While looking at this configuration the number of Instants and Sorceries remains constant, if instead of cutting Augur/Snap you cut Instants , then the count is too low for my liking.  I also like cutting a pike because killing them with a Cloned Angel of Serenity happens quite often.  Cutting more Augur/Snap for more Wraths is another possibility.

Jund:  Jund is another deck that I am happy to play against due to their weakness to a string of counterspells and their myriad of dead cards.  The only way Jund really “gets you” is a turn 2 Ground Seal putting a big damper on your plans in game 1.  The games can play out in two ways.  The first is a long grindfest of counters and removal versus threats.  In this type of battle, the goal is to resolve a Revelation to put the game out of reach.  The other type of battle that can take place is when UW Flash can out tempo Jund with a Rewind into Angel into a quick Pike, and put Jund on the backfoot so that they have to cast removal spells instead of threats, which opens up the door for UW Flash to stock its hand full of counters and resolve a Revelation.  It should be noted that I pretty much never counter a removal spell on Pike or one of my creatures in any matchup unless I have lethal damage or my Angel is roadblocking their board.  The majority of the time, countering an opponent’s threat is more valuable than saving your 3/4 flier or Pike.

+2 Aetherling

+1 Cavern of Souls

+1 Negate

+1 Renounce the Guilds

+1 Oblivion Ring

+3 Supreme Verdict/Clone

-4 Snapcaster Mage

-2 Runechanter’s Pike

-1 Unsummon

-2 Azorius Charm

The Aetherling plan in the sideboard is designed to destroy the control mirror, but also happens to annihilate Jund.  Jund is one of the few decks that is awkwardly slow enough to the point where Aetherling, which they have no answer to, crushes them.  I always bring in the extra land too so that Aetherling mana is easier to reach.  Against Jund, the premier focus is still on dealing with all their threats, so I board out Pikes to not get clogged on end games cards once Aetherling is in the deck.  I like boarding out the Snapcasters to blank Ground Seal as well.  Adding Verdicts or Clones compensates for the loss of the additional counterspells (Snapcaster) being boarded out.

Control:  This is the deck’s best matchup by far, regardless of the enemy control player’s shard of choice.  The UWR matchup is pathetic because UW Flash has more Angels, Counters, Cantrips, and an unbeatable endgame of Pike+Haunt instead of Pillar of Flames and Searing Spears.  The most important cards in these matchups are Aetherling and Moorland Haunt/Pike.  Most control decks have maybe one cavern game 1, so their Aetherlings are vulnerable to counters.  The plan is to just chip away at their life with Angels and Spirits until you can safely tap out for Pike.  I will generally fight over Pike in the late game, but just let them counter it in the early game if I feel like baiting their counter.

+2 Dispel

+1 Negate

+2 Aetherling

+1 Cavern of Souls

+1 Oblivion Ring

-1 Supreme Verdict

-2 Renounce the Guilds

-2 Augur of Bolas

-1 Snapcaster Mage

-1 Azorius Charm

These numbers vary, as sometimes you want to leave in Renounce if you expect Obzedats or Geists or something like that.  Post board the goal is to jam Cavern Aetherling Turn 7.  Most non-Esper decks will be on the same post-board plan as well, so getting aggressive with Pikes and Angels can force them to go for it without Cavern, or force them to tapout so you can resolve your Shapeshifter without a Cavern.

Things With Creatures (Rg Aggro, Naya, Naya Blitz, Aristocrats):

These matchups are tricky and take a lot of finesse game 1.  The key is to evaluate how badly things could go if you Azorius Charm their guy during combat and let them resolve something.  Angel is the best defense because if they choose not to cast their threat, you can cast your Angel end of turn and then counter the spell they have to play to break through your angel on their next turn.  The games against Rg and Naya revolve around Azorius Charming and Renouncing while blocking without exposing yourself to Rampager, and keeping Hellrider and Thundermaw off the board.  Leaving just U up and Unsummoning their guy after they Rampage it is pretty much the sweetest thing ever, with only Rewind your Hellrider/Boar/Hellkite into Restoration Angel surpassing it on the awesomeness meter.  Renounce the Guilds is incredible against Aristocrats because it solves gummed up Cartel or Falkenrath boards, while killing Varolz and Obzedat as well.  The most dangerous card from Aristocrats is Lingering Souls because they can generally Tragic Slip your Angel to clear the way for their spirits.  Blitz is by far the worst matchup out of all of these.  While the other matchups feel fair enough and highly positive post-board, Blitz is just a bad day for this deck.  Game 1 is essentially unwinnable  because they are fast enough to just suicide their guys into Restoration Angel and still kill you, and you also have to hit the 1 of Wrath, where as you don’t even need the Wrath to win the other aggro matchups.  Blitz also has Thalia which is quite good as well.

+3 Supreme Verdict

+1 Oblivion Ring

+1 Renounce the Guilds

-2 Think Twice

-1 Runechanter’s Pike

-2 Rewind/Dissipate

The boarding for these matchups is pretty straightforward.  Against Rg Aggro I like Rewind on the play and Dissipate on the draw.  Their best card is Hellrider, which you can Rewind on the play, but have to Dissipate on the draw.  Think Twice is too slow, and I always cut 1 Pike because 90% of these matchups are just ended by Resto Angel attacking a bunch of times.  It is important to note that in these matchups it isn’t important how you win, but just that you can reach at least a parity of resources with a bunch of lands in play before shutting them out with a Revelation.  Against Aristocrats I tend to actually leave in all the counters and board out an Azorius Charm and Snapcaster or Augur instead, the same is true depending on how “big” my Naya opponent is going; although I like to keep all the Azorius Charms and shave more Augurs/Snaps against them.

Junk Reanimator: This matchup isn’t so hot.  It is certainly winnable though and my record against it is not 0-X like it is when playing the other blue decks.  I don’t really have much to say about this encounter, because I haven’t fully figured it out yet.  In general though, counter everything they play, hope they don’t accelerate into Sin Collector, and Revelate for a bunch before Piking them.   If only it would go that smoothly…

+2 Clone

+2 Purify the Grave

+1 Renounce the Guilds

+1 Oblivion Ring

+2 Supreme Verdict

-2 Snapcaster Mage

-2 Augur of Bolas

-1 Runechanter’s Pike

-1 Unsummon

-2 Azorius Charm

I haven’t lost a game that I’ve Cloned their Angel of Serenity.  In conjunction with Purify the Grave and Supreme Verdicts, Junk’s end game is very manageable post board.  The types of games that Flash loses in this matchup are the fast mana dork into a million Sin Collector draws.  The other less likely scenario is Junk going Cavern: Angel and casting two Angel of Serenities with targets in the graveyard.  The first uncounterable Angel just gets Cloned and eats all their graveyard targets.  But if they have the second Angel, then it is pretty hard to win.  Voice of Resurgence can also put a damper on Flash’s plans, but I haven’t actually lost a game specifically to that card.  I’ve found that Renounces or just ignoring it until casting a Verdict have dealt with it quite well.

 

The last three events I’ve played with the deck have been winning an 8-man, 4-0ing a daily, and top 8′ing a premier event, losing to Junk in the top 8.  I think the deck is legit.

 

Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions or comments please post them.  I’d love to discuss anything about the article, deck, standard, etc.  I hope you learned something!

 

Ben Battle

YellowGatorade on MTGO

 

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