#theweeklywars #21 — Pauper Izzet Blitz, Mono Blue Delver & Metagame Snapshot

In true #theweeklywars fashion, this series is consistently not weekly. Whoops. I planned on writing last week, but family business and Breath of the Wild got in the way and I didn’t play a whole lot of Magic last week. I also think I played a bit of Legacy at some point and that wasn’t very constructive.

As I announced in #theweeklywars #20, I played Elves for a bit. The deck is a lot of fun to play – so long as you don’t have to play against Mountains. Pretty much all of the Mountain decks are really bad matchups (Tron with red cards is an exception to this rule). They have efficient spotremoval in the form of one mana burn spells and access to Electrickery, which can be very annoying to play against. On top of that they all either have countermagic for your CMC 4 spells (UR Delver, UR Faeries) or an aggressive clock (Sligh, Goblins, Burn, Izzet Blitz). Then there’s Mono Black Control which is beatable but still very hard.

On the other hand, everything else is even to favourable. Affinity is probably the hardest non-Mountain matchup, but maybe Great Furnace counts? Either way, Krark-Clan Shaman and Atog are both issues, but that’s where my list comes in:

Elves

#140 — Fangren Marauder does so much more work than Gleeful Sabotage.

As I said before, the problem cards in Elves vs. Affinity are Krark-Clan Shaman and Atog. Luckily their annoying effects share the activation cost of sacrificing Artifacts, which is trumped by Fangren Marauder – killing Marauder with Shaman nets us 25 life and costs them 4+ cards (they tend to have some Prisms or Stars). Of course there’s still Galvanic Blast and blocking with Fangren Marauder is usually a bad idea, but it usually buys enough time.

At its worst, Fangren Marauder is a 5/5 that beats. Not the worst card. An alternative plan is maxing out on Elvish Visionary and Vanguard, which allows you to play around Shaman quite well, but doesn’t do much against their more aggressive draws. There is splash damage against control decks though, so keep that in mind.

#141 Viridian Longbow is great.

If you ever manage to set up Longbow against Faeries, it usually means the game is over. Alongside Quirion Ranger and Priest of Titania, Elves gets by far the most activations out of its Longbows, so you can sometimes even lock aggro decks like Mono Green and Goblins – although it’s not like you need extra help against Stompy, to be honest.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of having a Longbow main is not losing to Moment’s Peace – it’s not that hard to kill a Tron player from 10+ life just with Longbow pings.

For the record, 4 Llanowar Elves / 4 Elvish Mystic is wrong and as soon as I lose a game to Echoing Decay because of it, I will get myself 2 Fyndhorn Elves.

Next up, we have Izzet Blitz, which I also wrote about last time and continued tweaking:

Izzet Blitz

#142 As with every other deck, I don’t like Izzet Blitz’s mana.

It’s often annoying to not have untapped red sources, and I had Crumbling Vestige and Ash Barrens before. However, those came with lots of mulligans by virtue of producing a bunch of unkeepable one-landers. This configuration is a lot more consistent, but you also lose 1-2 mana per game to your manabase and the triple-fetch hand has a very hard time winning games on time. Of course, all that is offset by this list’s overall explosiveness, but I still wish I could have faster mana.

I also think I should talk about the sideboard Mountain. Yes, that should be a Snow-Covered Mountain, but I’m too lazy to buy cards that don’t have impact (see the absence of Fyndhorn Elves in my collection). Before sideboarding, you don’t usually need the third red source, but in postboard games against control decks, having the option to go creature → Reckless Charge → Temur Battle Rage is extremely valuable. The Manamorphose is there for the same reason, but I’m not sure it’s necessary.

#143 Blessing / Slip / Dodge

I started playing this split because I wanted to try each of the cards. I lost a game to Artful Dodge playing against Blitz once, so I decided to try it myself. So far, it hasn’t really impressed me. Slip Through Space is likely better because cantrips are almost never bad. In general, “can’t be blocked” is not the most relevant text to put on creatures in this deck, but it’s nice to have access to every once in a while and as I said, cantrips are always decent. Especially in those weird situations where you have Nivix Cyclops and need to burn through something like an Alchemist’s Vial, not losing a card in the process is pretty cool.

Apostle’s Blessing is the card that is most consistently amazing but it may very well be the most inconsistent of these overall, which I admit sounds stupid. However, in a number of scenarios Blessing is the only card that works (attacking through Standard Bearer comes to mind), but it’s also worse than Dispel a lot and the lifeless can be really painful, especially with the slow manabase and the full eight copies of Mutagenic Growth and Gitaxian Probe. That being said, I still kind of want an extra copy of Apostle’s Blessing somewhere in the deck and Artful Dodge / Manamorphose seem like reasonable cuts to make.

#144 Free spells are great, but not all of them.

Mutagenic Growth is amazing. This deck’s creatures are somewhat clunky, so keeping up extra mana to protect them from Burn spells can be very costly. Mutagenic Growth, however, allows you to jam creatures very often, while also enabling a bunch of kills. This list is pretty good at killing without Temur Battle Rage or Fling, killing turn three, as well as killing with Elusive Spellfist (more on that one in a bit).

Gitaxian Probe is a no-brainer in this deck we don’t need to talk about. Same for Gush. But what about Daze?

This list initially started out with two more copies of Daze instead of Reckless Charge. In my last article, I said that I didn’t like the way this deck interacted and I have to say I am quite happy with my decision to remove the Lightning Bolts. I have played this list a bunch and there were maybe one or two times I wanted to have Lightning Bolts and the one I can think of right now (Standard Bearer out of Kuldotha Boros) I managed to win anyway.

The idea behind Daze was that not only did I want to be able to protect my clunky creatures from burn spells, I also didn’t want to lose them to countermagic or Edict effects – this is where Daze shines. But then I quickly came to the conclusion that I didn’t play against those cards often enough to justify maindeck Daze, so now we have two sideboard copies of Daze which I guess isn’t a card you see in sideboards very often. I still think this makes sense though; when I play against Faeries, Delver or UB Control variants, I want those Dazes in my deck, but outside of those matchups, I don’t want to be forced to interact with Daze, instead putting a little more emphasis on just killing them.

#145 Elusive Spellfist is the truth.

I’m not gonna lie, I was very skeptical about this slot. I mentioned that I wasn’t sure about Augur of Bolas, but that was already a massive improvement over Delver of Secrets. I wanted to try some of the more combo-y creatures instead and Elusive Spellfist simply happened to be first on the list. Other cards I wanted to try were Wee Dragonauts, War-Wing Siren and Pyre Hound. But once I started to play with Spellfist, I quickly realised how good the card is. Having extra combo creatures helps a lot against removal-heavy decks and generally makes the deck a little more consistent.

Sure, it’s harder to swing for 20 with Elusive Spellsfist than with Kiln Fiend or Nivix Cyclops. In exchange, getting in chip damage is much easier, which makes double Spellfist much better than double Kiln Fiend in some board states. As I mentioned earlier, with the six pump spells, it’s also not too hard to assemble a ten power Spellfist. As a matter of fact, I killed an Affinity player from 18 with just double Spellfist and no Temur Battle Rage in one of my first matches with this list. Another nice bonus is immunity to Hydroblast and Circle of Protection: Red, which are often thrown at me.

Now, I’m not arguing that Spellfist is better than Kiln Fiend or Nivix Cyclops, but it’s a very good addition to the lineup that I’m glad decided to try out. I’m probably going to try the other options as well at some point, but I’m inclined to believe they’re too clunky while also not being significantly more powerful than Elusive Spellfist.

#146 Somehow, Mono Blue Delver is still a thing.

This is surprising, because for a good while, many people (including myself) believed the deck was made obsolete by UR Faeries. I no longer believe that’s true; I have now come to the conclusion that the two decks are different enough that they can co-exist. My main reason to switch off Mono Blue was the fact that the UR matchup seemed almost unwinnable – one deck having bounce spells when the other has hard removal is not very balanced. I think my current list has a decent shot in the matchup though and UR is a lot less common these days.

I think Mono Blue is slightly better in most matchups, but UR is a lot better in the ones it’s better in. The biggest advantage Mono Blue has is consistency by virtue of having better mana. Because of this, and despite the fact that UR has Lightning Bolts, I think Mono Blue is the better Delver deck – to the point that I stopped playing Delver of Secrets in UR.

I think Mono Blue is slightly better against most control decks, including Tron, by virtue of having fewer removal spells and Daze, which allows you to pressure them more effectively with Delver of Secrets or Ninja of the Deep Hours. I also slightly prefer Mono Blue against Affinity, again, mainly because I think it’s better at Delvering them and because Lightning Bolt is not actually great against Affinity – maybe it’s better if you play Flame Slash instead of Bolt in UR, which is something I want to try at some point anyway.

Against Bogles, I prefer Mono Blue, even without Curfew. Daze is just so good at preventing them from overwhelming you early and running away with the games. Against Kuldotha Boros, UR is significantly better – killing their creatures is so damn good. Against Stompy, it’s close between the two, but I think UR has the edge thanks to Swirling Sandstorm which allows you to win games where you fall behind in the mid game. This also makes UR better against Sligh and Goblins, where bouncing their creatures is basically irrelevant and sweeping the board all but ends the game. In turn, I vastly prefer Mono Blue against Burn because of how good Daze is.

Now, I guess it’s time to actually show you my list:

Mono Blue

What’s going on here?

#147 Snap vs. Vapor Snag seems to be irrelevant.

“Have you tried Snap?” is probably the question I got most frequently with regards to my previous exploits with Mono Blue – I always used to play 4 Vapor Snag because I started out with the super aggro Phantasmal Bear / Gitaxian Probe list, which definitely wanted Vapor Snag. Now I had to pick up some cards, so I decided to just pick up some Snaps as well. And they were… kinda just there? I tried 2 each of Snap, Vapor Snag and Piracy Charm at first and I couldn’t really tell a difference between the two bounce spells. I upped the number of Snaps to be able to look at it more frequently. I’m likely going to try four copies soon, just to make sure, but for now I don’t really think it matters.

Sometimes Snap is free and lets you cast another spell, sometimes it costs 2 so you can’t cantrip into it and sometimes the mana doesn’t matter but you’d like that extra point of life loss. Most of the time though, none of this matters.

However:

#148 Why did I not play Piracy Charm before?

This card is so, so good. I think Charm is the main reason I no longer find the UR matchup to be impossible and it’s obviously great against all other Delver decks as well. Unfortunately, it’s usually worse than bounce when you face creatures with more than one toughness, so I think I want to relegate the third copy to the sideboard, although I am not sure what I want to cut (this is also why I’m able to try 4 Snap).

In general, whenever killing creatures with Charm is possible, the card is amazing. It’s not an effect Blue usually has and not having to pay life (as you would with Gut Shot) is extremely valuable. And even when it’s bad, you get to make your opponent discard, which is not the absolute worst use of a card, albeit not optimal.

#149 Flayer Husk is great, but no Spire Golem might be wrong.

Having the two additional one-drops is pretty neat, allowing you to have Ninja turn two more often. As a matter of fact, I played only 3 Ninjas before adding Husks because I had three copies of Think Twice already. Now, it’s slightly better at drawing cards and Flayer Husk has great applications in combat as well, allowing Ninja to fight 2/2 and live or your Faeries outclassing your opponents’ in the mirror.

That being said, I’m not sure I’m okay not having any Spire Golems. I’m fairly certain it’s fine not having any main, but I want some extra creatures in the sideboard anyway. Skyspawner is pretty neat. It’s better than Stormbound Geist against creature decks, but maybe it’s a worse 2-for-1 against control., with both halves dying to one Shrivel / Eletrickery effect. It’s certainly worse than Golem against creatures most of the time and maybe that’s more relevant than being slightly better against control.

I can definitely see myself running two or three Golems in the board, but Porcelain Legionnaire might be better against Stompy. I would really like some extra removal though, and maybe something like Sensory Deprivation is the way to go – if only that worked against Kuldotha Boros.

meta-chart(1)

Affinity continues to be the most common deck I play against, but I only faced it 12 times in 80 matches, when it was 16 out of 85 last week. Stompy has fallen off hard, going from 11/85 to 4/80. Tron is about the same with 6/80 this week and 7/85 last week. The combined presence of Mono Blue Delver and UR Faeries is about the same as UR’s was last time; 3+3/80 vs. 7/85 with no Mono Blue at all. In general, the metagame seems a little more balanced this time around with fewer decks being heavily represented and more unique decks showing up 3+ times in my matches.

Looking at this metagame, it might actually be a good idea to go back to UR rather than play Mono Blue Delver. As I outlined above, I think most matchups are very similar, but I do vastly prefer it against Kuldotha Boros, which seems to be making a comeback. I likely won’t be playing all that much this week with EVO taking place, but I hope I’ll be able to get in about ten leagues anyway.

Thanks for reading!

J

 

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