Monday, July 25, 2011

So I'm playing Hawks With Swords

So about a week before M11, I decided to leaf through my binder to see what I could have built for the new standard environment.  SuperShock is still a good deck, but is extremely anti-meta and the numbers need to be tweaked based upon what the field looks like.  Until the format re-establishes itself, I won't be slinging any Dark Tutelages any time soon.  Instead, I'm using the classic, 'nerfed' hawks with swords.

I was lucky enough to literally have the entire deck built minus Jace, TMS and two Stoneforge Mystics.  I sleeved up my list immediately and have been playing the same build since (not even adding Ponder/Oblivion Ring from M12).

My personal set of Hawks.  I particularly like the last, although The Ring Blo ain't bad either.

For anyone living under a rock for the past few months of Standard, Cawblade has been the deck to beat, even after two of the strongest players in the deck ate the banlist.  The basic formula for the deck at this point is a U/W control shell with Squadron Hawk and Sword of Feast and Famine.  Doubling your manabase allows you in the midgame to cast threats and still leave countermagic/Tectonic Edge up, while later on there's nothing like casting a Day of Judgment, turning Gideon Jura into a dude, equipping your sword, beating for eight, emptying their hand, untapping your lands, and dropping a Jace Beleren, or even worse, Mirran Crusader.  Other win conditions for the deck include the devastating Hero of Bladehold and the slightly less devastating but slightly more recurrable with Sun Titan Blade Splicer.

Now, as you can see, that's a lot of cards, and aside from Jace, all of them are white.  With all these beats, where's the room for all your Mana LeaksStoic RebuttalsSpell PiercesSpreading SeasPreordains, etc. that you want?  That's what a lot of people are asking.  There are decks on every end of the spectrum about right now, from heavy aggro beats to heavy permission to somewhere inbetween, and all of them seem viable.  Rather than go on about which deck is better in a vacuum and start the 'I'm right you're wrong' arguments, I'm going to plunge headfirst into my own custom list for hawks with swords.
The entire text of this card is summarized
by the keyword 'Awesoming'

U/W Cawblade - Caw Crusade

Creatures (10)
Planeswalkers (7)
Instants (5)
Artifacts (2)
Enchantments (4)
Sorceries (8)
Lands (24)
I refer to counters on this card as 'clanks'.
Sideboard (15)
Now, call me crazy, but there are a few things off about this list that you probably won't find elsewhere.  I'll go over a few points here.

1. Spreading Seas?  Really?
Yes, really.  Call me crazy, but I likey my cantrips.  Serves as a Tectonic Edge when you don't feel like going down on lands, plus it seems pretty good against Valakut.  Great against Tempered Steel decks, as a lot won't have three plains that quickly to cast their namesake enchantment, and later helps to deal with troublesome cards like Contested Warzone or Inkmoth Nexus.  The card even excels in the mirror or against UB, helping to deal with manlands or enemy tectonic edges while replacing itself in your hand, potentially giving you more gas after your Squadron Hawk or Mirran Crusader gets hit by an Inquisition of Kozilek.  Sure, you'll find yourself boarding it out after most non-valakut matchups, but it's never a dead card no matter what the situation, so I see no harm in having it.  I've won my fair share of games just by keeping an opponent off their colors with a pair of Seas.  Admittedly, though, if there's one slot in this deck I would have to change, it would be Seas.

2. Three Gideons?  Really?
Yes, really.  What can I say, I like my planeswalkers.  He pairs nicely with my playset of Day of Judgments (another unique choice), plus I like them coming in sequence to get around Oblivion Ring.  Gideon makes a nice non-dismemberable, hard to burn finisher.  Sure, he's a bit weaker to Spell Pierce than, say, Baneslayer Angel, but I hear Protection from Dismember and Day of Judgment is better than Protection from Demons and Dragons.
Gol 'em, Dano!

3. No Blade Splicer? Really?
Yes, really. Admittedly, I haven't tested with him, but he seems like I'd just rather have Mirran Crusader over the golem token.  Both are four power for three, but with different advantages. Crusader is great with a Sword of Feast and Famine, is immune to everything UB drops short of a Black Sun's Zenith, and serves an amazing job keeping Thrun and Vengevine at bay.  Blade Splicer... well he doesn't let you get completely blown out by an Arc Trail.  Add the growing popularity of Torpor Orb to the mix, and I'm not yet sold on the splicer.  He has less white dependency, which is awesome for more permission-heavy decks, but that's not what I am, so the Crusader is my man.

4. Insert sideboard complaint here.
Yes, really.

I mean...


I put this here because I assume there will be a lot of these.  My board is a combination of personal meta hate and simply not being polished enough.  If there was one thing about Magic that I'd say I desperately need improvement on, building a proper sideboard takes the cake.  However, there is reasoning behind every choice, and I'll explain them here:

Ratchet Bomb: I see the occasional Draw-Meow deck at FNM that can be a particularly annoying matchup without having bombs.  Also excels against RDW, Tempered Steel, and, oddly enough, Splinter Twin.  At two counters, this card kills Pyromancer Ascension and at three Deceiver Exarch.  They do have Into the Roil, so it's not an end-all solution, but it's a particularly annoying one and it lets me tap down more for dudes.

When attacked by vampires, remember
to always use a condemn. Otherwise, you
could end up on Twilight.
Leyline of Sanctity: For RDW. Period.

Condemn: For Vengevine and Wurmcoil Engine, among others.  Also performs well against Tempered Steel when I have yet to see that DoJ.  Bloodghasts don't care for it much either.  That's why I always pack extra protection when dealing with necrophiliacs... I mean, the undead.  Totally meant the undead.

Spell Pierce: For counter-heavy decks.  Let's me resolve my dudes one turn late as opposed to the three turns late that an opposing Mana Leak presses me into.  Also counters Swords, DoJ, Gideon, Black Sun's Zenith, Oblivion Ring, etc.

Oblivion Ring: The new addition, and I haven't got to play with it yet.  Gets rid of Birthing Pod and enemy planeswalkers, not to mention Pyromancer Ascension and enemy O-Rings.  I'm still not quite sure on how to side it in yet, however.

Not such a baby anymore.
Before I leave, there's one more thing I need to mention- Jace Beleren.  For some reason, you silly lil' ol' men out there are inclined to think that drawing three cards for three mana is bad, and so will cut them from your lists.  I find this hilarious.

Let's paint a situation here.  You're playing against a UB player, and you have the play.  They play a turn one Creeping Tar Pit, then pass their second turn to represent Mana Leak.  You cast a Jace.

One of two things will happen.  One is that your opponent trades their Mana Leak for your Jace.  That's one for one.  You tapped out, sure, but your opponent is playing UB and you were on the play.  Since all these silly people don't have Jaces of their own, the best play he could make is a Vampire Nighthawk, and you WANT them to tap down for that.  You go up to four mana, which means you can cast anything in your deck short of a Gideon.  Not only that, but your opponent lost a counter from their hand.  Seeing which they choose also gives you an advantage.  If they play a Spell Pierce and not a Mana Leak, then untap and play a Preordain or Inquisition, you know that your opponent has the Leak in hand that they were waiting to use on your Crusader, Hawk, or Blade Splicer.  Especially if they take the time to think about casting the counter or not.

The other is that he chooses to let Jace resolve, in which case you have a one-sided Howling Mine.  Or do you?  Your opponent will probably only run Creeping Tar Pits and titans for creatures, maybe an aforementioned Nighthawk.  You can keep Jace in play freely, going +2/-1/-1/+2/-1/-1 ad infinitum.  In this way, you'll generate card advantage and dig for another Jace while your opponent is constantly faced with a decision.  Either let Jace stick, or tap down to beat at it with a Tar Pit and give you the chance to resolve something.  And that's assuming you don't have a Tectonic Edge or Condemn waiting for it.

Now, let's say you're on the draw.  Your cast that Jace.  Again, if it doesn't resolve, you get an inkling as to what's in their hand as well as pulling a counter out of it.  If it does resolve, he instantly replaces himself and your opponent, having no other play, is faced with the option of tapping down with a tar pit to kill him.  If he doesn't, you're going to get a ton more card advantage.  If he does, you can resolve a Hero of Bladehold, or a Mirran Crusader with Spell Pierce backup and just win.

Not your typical glitter freak. This one
sucks blood and nothing else.
Now let's say you're playing Vampires.

T1 Collonade (or Island, Preordain)
T2 Vampire Hexmage, possibly beat for one
T3 Jace, draw.

At this point, your opponent is faced with a tough decision.  They can attack into Jace with both dudes, in which case you'll block the Hexmage and let Jace go to one.  If so, you get an extra card.  If they Bolt or Burst Jace, even better.  You want them to waste those on cards that are not Mirran Crusader.  If they end up sacrificing the Hexmage, that's awesome for you.  They lost tempo and you gained card advantage.  The only way you really lose in this situation is if they drop a kicked gatekeeper, and in which case, that's one more piece of kill that doesn't hit a Mirran Crusader or sworded dude.  And if they elect to attack you and ignore Jace?  All the better!  You need to dig for multiple Days/Condemns in order to beat the matchup, and them letting you do that is a huge plus.  Two damage on one turn is a fair trade for two cards.  They might as well be giving you a Sign in Blood for zero mana at that point.

Bottom line: Jace is good.  Play him and win, mmkay?

That's all I have for you ladies tonight.  I have to get back to my game of bridge and then put the kiddos to sleep.

-Yo Mama

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1 comment:

  1. i like your coment about jace its so good im playing with him and liliana in my blue/black deck (with three black titans and three blue titan its amazing)