Firstly I apologise that this article is so late after the fact, hopefully it is still of some use.
20th June: Cross format superstars Jace The Mindsculptor and Stoneforge Mystic banned in standard, some lament, most rejoice. Caw-Blade deemed dead and buried. Me: ‘I guess I actually have to choose a deck now‘.
17th July: Tim Pskowki wins an SCG open with what is essentially ‘the other stuff‘ in caw-blade. Me: ‘oh, never mind‘.
Actually going into the National Championships the format was as wide open as it has been in recent years and I did toy with U/B and Twin but decided both of these were just not where I wanted to be.
Apparently where I wanted to be was casting 1/1s for two… it’s a crazy world for sure.
SQUAWK! – Jamie Hannah’s Caw-Blade
Standard – Top 8, 2011 Great Britain National Championship
More on Tectonic Edge: The mirror is in fact all about Tec Edge, playing around the card is about as important as playing around Mana Lleak, the card can be leveraged to mana or colour screw the opponent, diffuse man-land threats, keep Mana Leak and Spell Pierce active and cut opponents off blue on your turn to resolve something. Playing the card well gives you a huge edge (pun intended) over your opponent.
2 Emeria Angel: I didn’t like this card at first but after playing with her (?) a fair amount I realised she’s quite good, it’s not hard to create a significant board presence with her quite quickly. She generally gets value before biting the dust to a Dismember and she single-handedly wins the squadron hawk war in the mirror which is pretty important. I much prefer her to Hero of Bladehold for all of these reasons though I could see the hero being better in a list with Blade Splicers, as Splicer can bait out Dismember and more bodies are better with battlecry.
4 Mirran Crusader: My favourite thing about my list over the others, this guy is more or less in the 6 drop/Reinforcements/DoJ slot in other lists, I like this over 6 drops because why pay more to win the game than you need to, and the Crusader wins his fair share of games. He is: not Dismemberabl; not that expensive (good with and against Mana Leak); evasive; and a beating with swords. I’ve found he is a bit vanilla in the mirror (but still fine), OK versus twin, good against green decks (obv I know) and not so great against red. Where he shines most is against U/B where he will generally win on his own, they have very few answers if he resolves (pretty much Black Sun’s Zenith, Consume the Meek, and Consecreted Sphinx) all of which are very expensive and mostly sorcery speed meaning that they are easily countered with Leak/Pierce and if not still require U/B to tap out so you can resolve what you want on your turn.
2 Dismember: I was playing 3 for a while, but changed one for an O-ring, they are obviously bad against mono-red and 3 felt like 1 too many in the mirror where games often go long and the last dismember becomes dead a fair amount of the time because you are on 4 after 1/1 beats, fetches and other dismembers. 3 is awesome if the format is full of Valakut and Twin where they are best.
2 Gideon: Had 3 of these for a while too but lost one when I saw that caw-blade lists had started playing more Sun Ttitans as he is rather embarrassing against that particular card, I still like playing 3 as Gideon is just very awesome.
3 Into The Roil: In previous decks I have generally hated this card as there just aren’t usually many good targets, the flexibility is the nicest, the card is one of the best in the mirror as tempo is exactly what you want, it is good against sphinx and the source of most blow-outs (generally on a gideon into an attack with sword or on their sword which they tapped out for). Pretty good against Twin/Ascension and can reset shrine against red. I still don’t like the card that much but you need the flexibility and the tempo in the mirror.
1 Jace Beleren: Jace can win you games with card advantage but you generally only need 1, Jace is also a tad expensive for something that doesn’t affect the board, my version is also trying to be more aggressive than most and Jace doesn’t really fit that plan, he probably gets a lot better with wrath effects.
4 Mana Leak: Still amazing, and better in this more aggressive version as the opp has less time to move out of range and the card is better when you are ahead when it can cement a winning position and prevent any potential comebacks for your opponent with powerful cards like Titans or Sphinxes
1 Oblivion Ring: Nice to have one lasting answer to a problem permanent such as a Titan, an Engine, a Gideon or a sword, but the card is clunky and opens you up to blowouts in the mirror when they Into The Roil it so I like Into The Roil a bit more. I think you need a bit of luck for tournaments so putting one of these in and hoping to mise it when you need it doesn’t seem that unreasonable, I almost put a Day of Judgement in the deck for this reason.
4 Preordain: Consistency is king in long tournaments and preordain helps a lot here, I love this card, when you put two blanks on the bottom you are essentially drawing three, which helps a lot when you need to find something urgently.
3 Spell Pierce: A very good card, quite situational for sure but the effect is worth it, countering anything costing more than one gives you mana advantage and pretty much all current standard decks have key noncreatures they want to resolve, even the aggressive ones (Shrine of Burning Rage and Tempered Steel). Similarly to Mana Leak it is better in a more aggressive deck.
2 Sword of Feast and Famine: Sword is still awesome without stoneforge and generally gains you enough advantage to win after one hit. Some lists have started to cut them and win with 6 drops instead but I think you need sword if you are not packing 6 drops and I like the card a lot either way.
1 Sword of War and Peace: I knew I wanted 3 swords and liked this split in testing, as if you draw two swords having one feast and famine and one war and peace is much better than having 2 feast and famines from diversity of effects, war and peace is obviously insane with Crusader, war and peace was really good for me on the day, mostly because I drew it in the right places, mise.
1 Azure Mage: Very good in draw-go situations though I haven’t been as impressed as others with the card, I like 1 because if you draw more than 1 the extras are just coral merfolk.
1 Batterskull: Wish I had more than 1, pretty similar to Wwurmcoil and not sure which is better, though generally red decks fold to either so the cheaper one seems like a good choice, though Wurmcoil is more resillient against Manic Vandal.
1 Flashfreeze: I know 1 looks strange, but when I was crunching the numbers for the sideboard this is what came out as I have few cards that are really horrible against Valakut, also my deck runs more counters than most caw-blade lists main (4 leaks rather than 3, 1 deprive, 3 peirce rather than 2) so counters in the board are less necessary, Mirran Crusader also means that the Valakut matchup is much better for this deck than lists without it.
1 Inkmoth: Hitting land drops in control mirrors is so important that I think utility lands are valuable sideboard cards.
4 Kor Firewalker: Much better than Timely Reinforcements against red decks now because:
2) Most play some number of Hero of Oxid Ridge now which makes timely much less effective
3) If it is killed by Shrine this is still a good trade for the control deck as shrine is just the best card for the red deck against control, it cost the red deck 5 mana slowing its board development in the early game, and the Firewalker probably still gained life by its ability and by stopping Goblin Guides attacking.
4) The only good answer (Dismember) is relegated to 2 sideboard, which is likely to not even be brought in for game 2 in the swiss as no one expects it (this might be changing)
1 Phantasmal Image: For the mirror (5th squawk) and Titan decks, wasn’t that great for me in the tournament but maybe I drew it in the wrong places.
2 Solemn Offering: Yes, not Divine Ooffering, be honest, how many of you know what this does off the top? Basically it is a better revoke existence as the life is more important than the mana in the its best matchup (Tempered Steel), also pretty reasonable against red for killing Manabarbs and Shrine.
4 Spellskite: blah blah Splinter Twin, also awesome against red and pretty reasonable against Tempered Steel. Can also be brought in against the right builds of Valakut/UB
U/B: -2 Dismember, -1 SOWAP // +1 Inkmoth Nexus, +1 Azure Mage, +1 Phantasmal Image
Mirror: -2 Dismember (stays in against hero builds), -1 Jace // +1 Inkmoth Nexus, +1 Azure Mage, +1 Phantasmal Image
Twin: -2 Gideon, -2 Emeria Angel, -1 Oblivion Ring, -1 SOWAP // + 4 Spellskite, +1 Inkmoth Nexus, +1 Azure Mage
Red (RDW and Goblins): -2 Dismember, -3 Spell Peirce, -4 Manaleak, -1 Deprive, -2 SOFAF, -1 Jace Beleren // + 4 Firewalker, +4 Spellskite, +2 Solemn Offering, +1 Flashfreeze, +1 Phantasmal Image, +1 Batterskull
Tempered Steel: -4 Manaleak, -1 Deprive, -2 SOFAF // +4 Spellskite, +2 Solemn Offering, +1 Batterskull
Battle! – Swiss
Now I wish I had notes, but I don’t so I’m just going to write about the more interesting/memorable games.
Round 1 Vs U/B
This is not really about the games, anyway when I’m shuffling for game 2 I notice that I have 1 card missing out of my deck. So I call over a judge, and he says that it is fine as long as I can replace the missing card or have a basic in its place, I sort the cards and a Mirran Crusader has gone for a walk, and I can’t find it, fortunately my opponent is really kind and lends me one. A massive thank you to my opponent, Kyle (forgot your last name sorry!)for this as well as being patient and understanding. Of course then I beat him with mirran crusader because he is U/B, probably his own. Either way this made me feel good because I had done the right thing and was rewarded by my opponents generosity so that everything turned out fine, see there was a moral to this story!
Round ? Vs The Mirror
My opponent in this round was a nice guy too, and a good player. There was an interesting play I made where I think I made the right call where the play was slightly unusual and is probably going to sound bad on paper. I have one untapped squadron hawk he has 3, one has a sword, he attacks with the sworded one, he is tapped out and I have a sword in play and an Inkmoth to equip it to, in my hand there is an Into the Roil and a Dismember (and 3 hawks in hand) , life totals are pretty irrelevant, I think the obvious play is to Roil the sword, I decide to chump then at end of turn Dismember one of his untapped hawks and Roil the other one so I can attack with an Inkmoth, which lets me deploy a couple of Hawks on my turn and have some mana open, and kills two hawks (he discards one to SOFAF). I win this game (though it is close) and though I am not sure I think I made the right play as in this case the game was all about who could have more squawks, more presence, so killing them with removal was fine, and I ended up with one more near the end which was very valuable due to sword.
Round 11 Vs U/B Tezzeret
This is a very hard fought match which I win narrowly, after time has been called. There was an interesting mental game in game 3 which was absent from my other games so I’d thought I’d share what happened, there is a point where I am holding up Mana Leak but don’t have it, I think he has 6 mana so he can’t pay if I leak one of his threats (Tezzeret/6-drops), it may be in his best interest to wait if he thinks I have Leak so he can pay, I take one card from my hand and place it slightly in front of me as though I am ready to leak his thing…he doesn’t play anything. Later I have drawn a Leak and now want him to play a threat while I can leak it, so I give a large sigh and slump into my chair, he plays his Tezzeret and I get to leak it. Of course I don’t know if my bluffs actually had an affect on my opponent’s play, but the situations did go my way and I wouldn’t be surprised if at least one of my bluffs were important in this.
Coming into the tournament I feel I have a good grasp of M12 draft, which is all about curving out, in practice drafts I found that you very rarely lose a game in which you use all your mana in the first three turns of the game on reasonable creatures. Surprisingly GW was an awesome colour combination in practice drafts (you have to be aggressive though), basically because it has a lot of good common cheap creatures, such as the best two common one drops (llanowar elves and gideon’s lawkeeper), good uncommon creatures, it uses Overrun (the second best uncommon). Green is also the least drafted colour and I think white can be underdrafted (I think it is the best colour), not only this but it is quite easy to pick up Sacred Wolves and Spirit Mantles which assemble to form a game winning combination, giving free wins, Trollhide as a backup usually also wins the game on a Sacred Wolf. The GW decks I like to draft have about 17 creatures, with 2-3 costing 1, 3-4 costing 2, 9 ish 3 drops, some more expensive creatures, an Overrun, some removal, some tricks and some auras if I have Sacred Wolves, these decks don’t tend play creatures costing more than 4 aside from rares as I think they are just too slow. This was the kind of deck I thought I was most likely to draft
First Draft (GW guys)
I first pick an Overrun and go into GW but get fairly cut (unusually), though in general the card quality seemed very poor, and ended up with quite a bad deck with infinite three drops and no Llanowar Elves to accelerate them out on turn 2 (but I do have an Aegis Angel and a Druidic Satchel to lean on). I still manage to go 2-1, in part because of some good luck.
Round? (First Draft) Vs GW Sacred Wolf
I can see why I didn’t see much as GW is rarely drafted by two people at the table and may not really be able to support that many players. My opponent’s deck is more focused on Sacred Wolf/auras than mine which doesn’t have that combination. In the third game I play quite badly, my opponent is on 7 and has a Benalish Veteran and an Honour of the Pure out with one card in hand, it is my turn and I have a Benalish Veteran in play and a Pacifism in hand, I Pacify his Veteran hoping to kill him quickly before he topdecks something, he goes down to 4 but on his turn plays a Vastwood Gorger which he was probably slow-rolling and I look like an idiot as Pacifying his Veteran didn’t really achieve anything, my guy is now outclassed, luckily I rip an Aegis Angel off the top (like a boss!) and kill him with it, but I still made a big mistake as I think a topdeck war was inevitable so should’ve let the Veterans trade and kept the Pacifism.
Second Draft (Also GW guys but roughly 100x better)
This draft went much better. I first-picked a Gideon’s Lawkeeper over a Cemetry Reaper, strange sounding as it is I really like Lawkeeper and I really like white a lot more than black, for me this was indisputably the right pick though I can understand how it sounds. Then I get passed a Skinshifter and snap it up seeing as GW is where I want to be anyway, then I get passed a Gideon’s Avenger, yeah that was mad. GW just flows really well and I end up with an amazing draft deck I have seen, luckily I kept this one intact:
Llanowar Elves">Llanowar Elves x 2
Garruk’s Companion x 2
Lurking Crocodile x 2
Griffin Sentinel x 2
Stingerfling Spider">Stingerfling Spider
Notable Sideboard Cards.
I sweep the draft fairly easily, which includes one round in which I had the best opening I think I have ever seen in limited (I am on the play):
Turn 1 – Llanowar Elves
Turn 2 – Dungrove Elder
Turn 3 – Attach Spirit Mantle to Elder, play Skinshifter, attack for 3/Opponent plays Fiery Hellhound
Yes this is the ‘nut‘ hand but it shows what the deck was capable of, The only thing beating this opener is Day of Judgement and my opponent was BR.
In another game my opponent plays a Garruk, Primal Hunter and I choose not to cast the oblivion ring in my hand on it, saving it for something that can beat me, killing the Garruk with my creatures instead, and winning the game easily with an O-Ring left in my hand.
Round 1 Vs RDW
This is quite a fortunate matchup as my deck is very well equipped to deal with red. In a statistic-defying game one I somehow manage to win my worst game one matchup, after sideboarding I draw my sideboard cards and it all plain sailing from there, result: 3-0 to me
Round 2 Vs Eldrazi Green
Click here for the Wizards offcial coverage.
Round 3 Vs Vampires
Coming into the round I have no idea how the games would play out, on the one hand maindeck Mirran Crusader is strong against his deck, on the other my sideboard is quite ill-equipped as I have Firewalkers over Timely Reinforcements which are much better here. the first two games I draw well and my opponent draws quite poorly and I win both, and I think the opposite can be said of the next three games, though of course I hate to put it all down to luck as it very much wasn’t, nor do I want to detract from Tim Pinder’s victory as it was well deserved, ultimately I made key mistakes in the match (both before the event, during the event and in-game) and I feel that I could have won had I not.
Why Did I lose?
I think the fact that Daniel Royde’s (congrats!) eldrazi green deck was well metagamed against caw-blade so that there was little I could have done to win that match (though I did keep a complete stinker in the last game of 4 lands, phantasmal image, Jace Beleren, yeah that was bad) so I am focusing on my loss in the 3rd place playoff here.
1: I disregarded vampires as a real deck before the tournament and never tested against it, testing was also slightly haphazard and should have been more organized, even dekcs that occupy only 5% of the meta should still be given real attention because if you do face them you will be ready. I was not at all ready, none of my 75 had taken vampires into consideration and I had no experience of playing against the deck.
2: I didn’t test the matchup after we were given top 8 brackets, I was tired and looking for a break, but if you want to do the best you possibly can than you have to use every opportunity to gain an edge, as I went into the top 8 I think I lost this side of things, and the inner spike in me cringes at this thought, and I think I was doomed to a lesser finish than I was capable of because of this.
3: I mis-sideboarded, horribly, I don’t know what possessed me but I deviated from the sideboard plan I had drawn up the night before against this match up and my friends had agreed upon, the past 2 days did take it out of me for sure, but I could’ve used notes for sideboarding! Either way I had planned to sideboard out 2 Sword of Feast and Famine and keep in my Into The Roils but on the day I boarded out 2 Into The Roils for the Swords, Sword was horrible every time I saw it as it was just far too slow and the creature could be killed in response, in the third game I managed to stabilise but only had both swords in hand with no creatures and died a few turns later, if these had been Into The Roils I would have brought a lot of time and dug through my deck for something to win with, and had a much greater shot at winning, and if I won that game I would’ve won the match! Take this as a warning: stick to your plans and don’t lose your drive when you reach top 8.
Until next time, and may all your Innistrad Packs contain 3 mythics!