Hello everybody and welcome to another article by this handsome gentleman. College is finally over for me and I’ve been again bitten by the Magical bug we all call Magic: The Gathering. To be fair, I never really left the game, I got to play in a PTQ a few months ago that… well… went terribly. So, here’s my first lesson of the article:
Never, ever audible into a deck.
I took to playing UW Tron several hours before the tournament and my lack of experience with the deck certainly caught up to me and ran me out of the tournament. The deck was clearly powerful, but I had not practiced with it enough to take advantage of that. I know many people manage to win with an audible all the time, but for those mortals out there like me, I say: Beware.
It’s the night before, you are undecided, you feel underprepared… consider not playing in the tournament altogether. Live to fight another day. There will be plenty of other opportunities.
That said here’s the real reason I’m writing today:
Part I – Divine Deflections and Righteous Blows
Divine Deflection. Why it’s still at a dollar or a euro is beyond me. Harm’s Way saw play back in its day. Shining Shoal made Top 8s. Honorable Passage was played before and after it was Timeshifted, especially in Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa’s sideboard in his Boros deck for Worlds 2006 (which I’m watching right now). Divine Deflection even made an appearance in last weekend’s Block Constructed Pro Tour in Barcelona. Decklist as follows:
Denniz Rachid – Pro Tour Avacyn Restored Top 8 GW Humans
1 Faith’s Shield
1 Garruk the Relentless
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Purify Grave
1 Seraph of Dawn
1 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
1 Riders of Gavony
1 Witchbane Orb
1 Tree of Redemption
2 Ray of Revelation
2 Wolfir Silverheart
2 Crushing Vines
(Rest of the coverage can be found here.)
In this deck, Divine Deflection’s role seems fairly straightforward—it protects your creatures against burn and (best of all) it makes them so much better in combat. Deflection is this deck’s trump card in combat and can even make your deck better at racing. With it you can conceivably bash in without worrying of a counterattack. All the while you protect your creatures from Pyroclasm effects and the like.
One of the biggest hurdles Delver of Secrets decks face in the current metagame is the abundance of Slagstorms and Whipflares; Deflection protects you from that. A common scenario is having a [carrd]Geist of Saint Traft[/card] and a flipped Delver staring at your opponent and he/she draws that perfect Whipflare. Fine. Divine Deflection for two and prevent one damage that would be dealt to each creature. Both creatures survive, you deal the prevented damage to one of his/her creature, your opponent, or to their Planeswalker. Divine Deflection fights off Grim Lavamancers, Shrine of Burning Rage, Inkmoth Nexus, and more. Best part is I haven’t even touched on this card’s potential in Control decks!
What does it do in Control decks?
I’m glad you asked! You see, for a very long time, straight Control decks haven’t been all that viable. In this day and age, you can barely sit back and hide behind a wall of instants (mostly counters and removal) until you can ride your win-condition to victory. Divine Deflection let’s you do that. It is the kind of card that helps you reach the late-game while staving off most creatures. It’s the kind of card that you can play main deck to protect you from burn and their tiny red men. It’s the kind of card that gives you the option of holding back your mana, so you can Think Twice or Mana Leak later.
These options are especially important in a format with powerful Miracle spells like Entreat the Angels, Devastation Tide, and Terminus. The Miracles, combined with Think Twice, means you can play “instant speed” Terminuses (or is it “Termini” for plural?) and Devastation Tides during your opponent’s turn, as long as they are the first card drawn.
In short, Divine Deflection does one great thing in Control: it made the archetype viable again—that and Righteous Blow. I’m not quite sure why Blow hasn’t picked up steam in Standard. It’s essentially a White Shock that along Snapcaster Mage (a card already in the archetype) means you can kill most of the creatures played in this format. What Righteous Blow can’t kill, Divine Deflection can pick up, for instance Death Artist which aren’t used to attacking.
The biggest strike against these cards is how popular Hexproof has gotten. Admittedly, these cards can’t pick up Invisible Stalker, Geist of Saint Thraft, and Thrun, The Last Troll. Yet no removal, short of mass removal, can manage that and that’s where Terminus and Devastation Tide come in. Not to mention that since Cavern of Souls has not been adopted by Delver decks, Mana Leak is still just as effective against Geists, Stalkers, and those pesky equipments that seem to follow them around. Additionally, Snapcaster Mage can trade with most, if not all, x/2 creatures and it has Flash which plays perfectly into the entire Draw-Go strategy.
Where are you getting at, mister?
Part II – UW Karma: The Return of Draw-Go
So, I was driving back from doing errands yesterday afternoon while listening to “Karma” a song from Kamelot when it hit me: How do I portray some sort of karmic retribution in a deck? How do I take full advantage of the options Divine Deflection gives me for Control? And the answer was this:
- Consecrated Sphinx – Once it was king of the skies, now it’s an 8 dollar Mythic Rare that’s lucky if it sees sideboarded play. In this deck, it is mostly just to have another option besides Entreat the Angels as a victory condition, but most importantly it is the card that will refill your hand. For the same price, I could keep with the theme of Draw-Go and play Blue Sun’s Zenith, however, Zenith can’t kill your opponent (well, it can, but not through damage). Also, if I pass the turn with mana untapped and Sphinx in play, I can conceivably topdeck an Entreat the Angels and clutter the board with an army of 4/4’s.
- Snapcaster Mage – Self-explanatory. Snapcaster will double up on Righteous Blow, use Deflection for extra protection, bring back Mana Leaks, Entreats, Terminus, Divination, and so on. It also brings back Ponder to ensure that you can keep your mana flowing, or to set up backbreaking Miracle spells. Sometimes, there’s that little fun interaction between Snapcasting into Devastation Tide, and have Snapcaster return to your hand for more flashbacking later on.
- Divination – The one singleton draw spell is there for extra padding in the card draw department. Standard is lacking on quality draw spells with emphasis on the instant-speed variety, thus Divination will have to do. It could have been Forbidden Alchemy, unfortunately it doesn’t interact well with Miracles and I’m not a fan of splashing Black just to be able to flash it back. It is worth to note that the splash makes Ghost Quarter uncomfortable. This is a problem because Quarter is important if we want to be able to combat Cavern of Souls, which somewhat threatens our Draw-Go way of life. Snapcaster + Divination is not always what you’d like to be doing, but you gotta do what you gotta do.
- Dissipate – I like counters. If I could play 30, I probably would. Maybe not, actually. Anyway, this singleton is merely insurance against decks that thrive on token generators, aggro decks that refuse to play Cavern, and those Control decks that are stubborn enough to fill their decks with a million Planeswalkers. I honestly believe that going full-on Tap-Out Control is a bad idea, hence this attempt on reviving Draw-Go. Tap-Out Control is pretty dead to Aggro-Control strategies which will take advantage of these decks that try to play 4 or 5-mana “threats” and defensive measures. More on this later.
- Devastation Tide – I had been lusting over the return of Evacuation for the past year or so, and this is it. It is back and it is two mana (sort of), with the added benefit of bouncing Planeswalkers, enchantments, and artifacts. Remember how good it felt to bounce a Shrine of Burning Rage with Into the Roil? The Tide is the same, but you get to say “bye” to their creatures as well. Against Tokens, this is essentially another Wrath effect. Against straight aggro, this is just like Evacuation which will give you extra turns. Against Tap-Out Control, this will just keep resetting their ‘Walker filled board, making them replay their ‘Walkers over and over. What kind of detergent is better Clorox or Tide? I’d choose Tide all the time (it cleans up my bad comedic routines.)
- Entreat the Angels – There’s not much to say about this card. If you read the card and Pro Tour Barcelona’s coverage, you’d know by now how powerful this card is. We all thought that White Sun’s Zenith was the second coming for Decree of Justice, and it was… ‘Til now. Entreat the Angels is the real deal and it is here to stay. Seriously, if you are going to tap out for something, please do it with an Entreat. Or Gideon Jura, but mostly with Entreat. Even at a minimum of two tokens, it can end the game in three turns. Why clutter the board with janky ‘Walkers when you can fill it with Angels instead and win in short order? Planeswalkers will take forever to win. Entreat will take the for- and leave your opponents in –ever. Or something to that effect.
- Righteous Blow – Why isn’t this card seeing play? It kills Delver of Secrets, Inkmoth Nexus, Mirran Crusader, Silverblade Paladin, Mayor of Avabruck (who seems to be gaining traction), Stromkirk Nobles, most Undying creatures (before and after undying), etc. Combined with Snapcaster Mage, you can get a lot of mileage out of righteously blowing away monsters.
- Divine Deflection – The sole reason this deck exists. Deflection’s potential is already stated above. As of the writing of this article, I already had a discussion about the card on Twitter. It was stated that I’m partially blinded by the potential and not seeing that (wait for it)… it’s a trap. It won’t help my case to admit that it very well might be. I don’t gush about cards often, but I always end up right when I do. Sadly, I can’t recall any moment when I was proven right—it doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened! Regardless, I already mentioned all that this card can do and will do in the coming months. Keep an eye for it, its value will rise.
- Terminus – Another card that makes this deck possible. Play it on turn three or turn six, and you won’t be disappointed. Set it up with Ponder, instantly draw it up with Think Twice, play it for one mana, six mana, or even eight mana (Snapcaster Mage + Terminus) it will always do what you want it to do. Bearing some freak corner-case, Terminus will always be better than Day of Judgment. It cleans up a Zombie hoard without triggering Death Artists; Thrun, the Last Troll can’t regenerate; Strangleroot Geist, Geralf’s Messenger, and the Hound of Griselband (that is popping up in Pod decks) won’t come back; and you can even kill an attacking Gideon Jura by Think Twice-ing into it. The possibilities are there—exploit them.
- Ponder – Has been with us for ages now and will probably bid farewell come M13 just like Preordain did before it. Fortunately, we still have until the Return of Ravnica for that, therefore we might as well abuse it with Miracle and that’s one of the main reasons it’s in the deck. Other than setting up Miracles, Ponder’s second role is to streamline your draws. Considering the lack of bulk draw spells (one day Fact or Fiction… one day) the deck needs a way to at least ensure that you draw what you need and when you need it. Ponder is that card; the rest is to milk as much as advantage as you can from the rest of your spells. If Block Constructed had Ponder, Barcelona’s winning deck would have them instead Thoughtscour.
- Think Twice – The mayority of this section has been spent gushing over all the insane plays that you can pull off with Think Twice, thus I won’t repeat myself. For instant draw, this is the best we can do right now.
- Mana Leak – Cavern of Souls is a card they say, so we shouldn’t play Mana Leak they say. Well, those not playing Mana Leak will be playing a lot of Planeswalkers, Entreat the Angels, and other big mana spells. Mana Leak can still counter Green Sun’s Zenith, Entreat, ‘Walkers, unsuspecting creatures, Shrine of Burning Rage, burn spells, draw spells, other counters, Midnight Haunting, one half of Lingering Souls, Unburial Rites, Killing Wave, and so much more. R&D’s attempts to neuter our lovely Leaks were not enough because, oddly enough, spells are still king. Creatures aren’t the only cards being played that we have to worry about, as a consequence, Mana Leak continues to be the quintessential answer to most of the format’s questions. Cavern of Souls’ existence means players will be trying to exploit the lack of counter magic by playing all kinds of tap out spells and will try to play quirky decks that rely on resolving key spells. This deck will be prepared for those fool-hearted enough to believe such a thing.
- Ghost Quarter – Cavern of Souls may not scare me enough to leave my Mana Leaks at home, but they scare me enough to pack answers for them. There will be that one game or match where destroying Cavern will be the difference between PTQ invite and 9th place–that’s where Ghost Quarter comes in. Besides being able to destroy Cavern, you can use it to pop Kessig Wolf Runs and Inkmoth Nexi in other match ups.
There you have it. Hopefully, one of you thought: “Hey, maybe Divine Deflection isn’t that bad!” Or you thought: “Hey, that UW deck isn’t half bad.” Then again, you could have thought: “Why is this guy still writing?” While I don’t know about that last one, I do hope the first two are true. Divine Deflection will definitely be a player during this Standard PTQ season, believe it or not, and I can’t wait until Righteous Blow begins to creep into White-based decks. If I’m wrong about this, I will… probably rip all my Deflections and throw them into the North Wind with Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” playing in the background.
That’s it for today folks. Hope you enjoyed this edition of “Reading the Runes!” With Chris Fernandez:
PS: The deck’s ok, but needs work. It has potential, though.