Crucible of Words – Team Italia in Type 2 by Cyrus Bales

Crucible of Words – How do you solve a problem like a Mindsculptor? By Cyrus Bales

This week I’ll be talking about a new standard deck I built up and took to a recent Pro Tour Qualifier. The deck itself will be familiar to anyone who plays legacy, as it’s a modernization of the Team Italia deck. Team Italia is a Red-Black-White deck in legacy, that runs cards Stoneforge Mystic, Dark Confidant, Grim Lavamancer as well as a disruption and removal package. My legacy build also runs Squadron Hawk along with Scroll Rack, giving the deck some insane card advantage and dig capabilities. As you can see, some of these cards are in standard, so I thought it might be possible to make a build of Team Italia in the current type two environment.

Type 2 Italia

4 Despise
2 Duress
3 Go For The Throat
4 Lightning Bolt
2 Divine Offering
4 Stoneforge Mystic
4 Cunning Sparkmage
4 Squadron Hawk
1 Batterskull
1 Basilisk Collar
1 Sword of War and Peace
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
4 Dark Tutelage
4 Lavaclaw Reaches
4 Marsh Flats
4 Arid Mesa
4 Plains
1 Mountain
2 Swamp
4 Blackcleave Cliffs
2 Tectonic Edge

3 Inquisition of Kozilek
3 Combust
3 Memoricide
3 Hex Parasite
1 Phyrexian Revoker
1 Arc Trail
1 Go For The Throat

As you can see, I’ve kept the Stoneforge package and the Hawks from my legacy build, since there are tried and tested powerhouses in the standard format. Grim Lavamancer has become Cunning Sparkmage, since being able to kill an entire squadron of hawks without losing card advantage is very important and it allows me to run the Basilisk Collar combo as an additional means of removal for most creatures. Obviously Dark Confidant is not in standard, so his enchantment cousin Dark Tutelage fills that role nicely, since the converted mana cost of the deck is so low, it acts much more like Phyrexian Arena. A general package of disruption and removal accompanies this base, with main deck removal for equipment which has become a necessity these days.

If you look at the manabase, you’ll see I managed to squeeze in a couple of Tectonic Edge, these give you land draws that are relevant later on, and due to everything in the deck only needing one coloured mana symbol, it doesn’t hurt the colour requirements. Sideboard wise, it’s pretty self-explanatory, tools for beating twin, along with some general removal and some creatures with anti-planeswalker abilities.

I constructed this deck to have the tools needed to beat Caw-Blade, since it’s “The deck” at the moment. Disruption and mirroring their win conditions seemed like a good plan, and testing backed this up, I got feedback from friends in the US and they confirmed my results, the deck was pretty good against Twin and Caw-blade, but was really vulnerable to burn heavy RDW. So, I figured it was worth playing at the Chesham PTQ this weekend just gone.


Game one: Turn one Goblin guide is not what I want to see in the first round of this tournament, heralding my worst match up I knew this would be a rough start to the tournament. He dropped a couple of Shrine of Burning Rage which got powered up as he removed my Stoneforge Mystic. I didn’t get to live long enough to make my Batterskull, as a shrine with six counters burned me out.

Game two: I drew my seven cards, and had no action in them, so I mulliganned. However my next hand was no better, with no mana sources. I had to go down to four cards to find a land, and by this point I knew I was in trouble. Goblin Guide started the beat down again, and my Stoneforge ate a Searing Blaze, there was no way I was getting my Batterskull out and the game was over in minutes.


ROUND TWO – Mono Black Control (2-0)

Game one: I throw down a couple of early discard spells and see Sign In Blood, Phyrexian Rager and swamps by the time I’ve finished picking his hand apart. He loses life to draw deeper and I drop my Squadron Hawk. He keeps using removal to keep them down as they grab Sword of Feast and Famine, and eventually they get through. I drop a Sword of War and Peace to make sure and finish on 23 life.

Game two: After a mulligan I get in with an early Batterskull, but he has removal for my creatures. I start rolling in hawks, but he drops a Carnifex Demon as he empties his hand and kills my board. A couple of hits later from his demon and my Dark Tutelage, I kill off his demon and start beating down with my Lavaclaw Reaches. I finish on nine life after hitting him for lethal with the manland.


ROUND THREE – UR Pyromancer’s Ascension (2-1)

Game one: Not a match up I was prepared for, I guessed his deck after missing with a Despise. I got down some Squadron Hawks and tried to beat down, but in the face of removal, he soon got online and burned me out.

Game two: My opponent keeps a slow hand, and my Duress and Inquisition of Kozilek keep him away from the Ascension. Batterskull comes down, bigger than his Lightning Bolts, and closes the game quickly.

Game three: A very curious game, I use some discard, and he manages to drop an Ascension the turn before I Memoricide, which alters my plan. I look at his graveyard and see a Preordain, I Memoricide the Preordain to stop him from getting counters easily since his hand is very slim and his graveyard pretty much empty. I then Memoricide his Arc Trail since I know he has two in hand, and it keeps his Ascension further away from being active. Then I drop a Batterskull now I know it’s safe, he spends his turn using Tezzeret’s Gambit whilst I begin the beat down. Next turn he casts another Gambit, taking his Ascension from zero, to two counters in one turn. I know he has the Slagstorm, so I drop and equip my Sword of War and Peace to the Batterskull germ before he untaps, and manage to take the game since he is without a bounce spell.


ROUND FOUR – Grixis Twin (2-0)

Game one: I draw a lot of discard and fetch and unanswered Sword of Feast and Famine. A few hits later and the game’s pretty much mine. My opponent’s hand wasn’t very strong, and his draws didn’t help him either after I stripped him of a Jace, The Mind Sculptor early on.

Game two: I get some early discard in and see he has lots of removal and a Jace that I remove. I discard a Deceiver Exarch from his hand and Memoricide his [/card]Splinter Twin[/card] out of his deck. I drop a Dark Tutelage which finds me drawing a couple more Memoricide, the first gets rid of Jace, the second is a wasted card in hand as Creeping Tar Pit takes my life down considerably. He is all in on the tar pits, and I have a Lavaclaw Reaches I’m trying to race with. Drawing both my Tectonic Edge have kept me in the game by removing his tar pits, but I’m not racing against my own Dark Tutelage. I decide it’s better to kill him in two turns than try to stick life gain equipment, he is out of cards, we are both on three life, I untap and reveal a land to my Dark Tutelage then come in for the win. Dark Tutelage dealt me 11 damage in that game, but thankfully stopped killing me when I needed it to.


ROUND FIVE – Grixis Twin (1-1-1)

Game one: I win the role. I’m not sure what he’s playing since all I see it UB lands, so I suspect UB control. I drop some Hawks and keep beating with them, once I see a scalding tarn, I suspect Grixis Twin, especially when it gets a mountain for him. I keep coming in with the hawks whilst he’s digging, I seem to have drawn three Lightning Bolt, so I sit on them. He drops a Spellskite, which effectively reduces my [/card]Lightning Bolt[/card] damage. I get him down to eight life, he then taps out at my end of turn to cast an Exarch, I then bolt him once and it resolves, then I cast another, which resolves, then show him the last one for the win.

Game two: A pretty bad show from my deck, I get stuck on lands and don’t draw any discard. It doesn’t take him too long to assemble the combo after removing my Combust from my hand.

Game three: I get a discard spell to begin things, and we trade resources for some time. In the end, he is left with a Jace, whilst my board is pretty empty. I know he has the bolt so I slowly roll out guys he has to kill. At this point, my opponent begins to misplay, instead of fatesealing me, he keeps drawing cards with his Jace, even though he has more cards than me and my board is empty. This goes on for many turns, and I end up sitting on a Combust and two Go For The Throat. Time on the round is called, and it’s now too late for him to win with Jace. He makes me discard the Combust and at the end of my turn which is extra turn four, he drops an Exarch, I go to kill it, he uses a Mana Leak which I pay for. Then he drops another Exarch, and then untaps. However he has only one red source in play, he digs with Jace then the game ends in a draw.


ROUND SIX – Goblins (2-1)

Game one: At this point, I’m in a position of having to win my last two games to make top 8. So we both shuffle up and keep our seven, then he drops a turn one Goblin Guide. Not what I wanted to see by any stretch of the imagination. However, I manage to answer it a couple of turns later, and tutor for my Batterskull. I manage to get the Batterskull down before he kills me thanks to the discard, and claw it back from twelve life to win the game.

Game two: I mulligan then face a turn one Goblin Guide that comes out to play again, I use some discard on him and see he is left with just creatures, so I drop a Sparkmage. I then make a Stoneforge Mystic and find Basilisk Collar, however he draws a kill spell for my Sparkmage. Then I equip my Stoneforge, which keeps me alive for one turn, but it’s not enough.

Game three: This time my opponent mulligans, and I pick apart his hand a little with discard to keep Koth of the Hammer away from the board, and slow him down by taking his two drop Goblin Wardriver early on. I have a removal heavy hand, including Arc Trail so I neuter his board position, then drop the Batterskull I started the game with. He holds back guys to try and kill the Germ, but my Sparkmage I cast removes his Warren Instigator. Next turn I drop and equip Sword of War and Peace to the Germ and finish the game on 32 life.


ROUND SEVEN – UW Caw-Blade (1-2)

Game one: I had seen that my opponent had been playing Caw-Blade in a previous round, so I was quite optimistic about making top 8 as it was my first encounter with one of my better match ups all day. He mulliganned to six, and I was on the play. Turn two Mystic led into turn three Batterskull and discard spell. His Hawks were not really a fair match, and Cunning Sparkmage sealed the deal. The game ended favourably and very quickly.

Game two: My opponent mulliganned to five, but opened the game with double Gitaxian Probe before dropping a dual land. I then used some discard, and saw he had a plains, a Jace, a Divine Offering and a Preordain. I took his Jace since it was Despise, then he untapped and dropped Stoneforge Mystic. Next turn he had the Batterskull on the board since I had no removal, the next turn he dropped Jace. I managed to deal with the Batterskull, but Jace fatesealed me to death in the end.

Game three: My opponent dropped a turn two Mystic, I duressed away his Batterskull and killed his mystic. Next turn he dropped another mystic, I duressed away his Batterskull and found my own with Mystic. I got my Batterskull down, and he was left with Preordain, Squadron Hawk and Sword of Feast and Famine. He slowed down my Batterskull with his hawks, and got his Sword up and running which was slowed down by my Hawks. I cast Despise later to see lands, Preordain and a couple of hawks. I took his hawk, and with my removal in hand I was pretty happy, he untapped and Preordained into Jace. Jace then brainstormed him into Divine Offering and a Celestial Purge for my Dark Tutelage, and in that one turn, the game was pretty much lost for me. He proceeded to drop another Mystic whilst I drew 4 lands in a row and then extended my hand and wished him good luck in the top 8.


Chesham PTQ Philadelphia 2011 Video


So there we have it, whilst I was disappointed to lose that last round to a good match up, I was pretty happy with the deck overall. I found the Basilisk Collar combo was not really worth the slot, and another Batterskull would have probably been a better option. Also, I regularly drew into extra Tutelages off of the first, so perhaps the number needs tweaking, as well as the lack of sizable creatures since the average power of my creatures was less than 1. Over the next week I’ll be tweaking the list and talk about an updated list in my next article.

Thanks for reading and thanks for sharing.


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