Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Of Limited Interest #4 - Turning the Hat Trick Part II: B/U Control Recursion

Continued from Part I here :

Okay now that we have a better idea of what makes the U/W Flying Aggro deck tick lets change gears completely and take a closer look at the 2nd deck:

B/U Control Recursion: 3-0-1 (6-0-2), Triple M11, 5 Players.

Creatures - 14:

3x Child of Night - Generally I think Child if Night is much better in B/W or B/G where you can use Mighty Leap and Giant Growth respectively to protect/increase it's value in combat.  Alternately the Child combos pretty well with cards like Shiv's Embrace or Whispersilk Cloak.  In this deck however she's mostly a 2/1 Wall that allows you to trade for enemy weenies and gain a quick 2 life in the process; in other words useful but hardly taking full advantage of what this card offers.

2x Steel Overseer - In theory this should be a pretty good card to have multiple copies of in a Control-ish draft deck.  I picked each of them 2nd overall in packs 1 and 3 respectively with the idea that I could drop one down as an early blocker and start putting a token on it at the end of each turn.  Once I'd gotten up to 3-4 tokens then I could switch to the offensive and heaven help my opponents if I got BOTH out at the same time.  Unfortunately word must have gotten out that I had them at the draft since every time I played one (even in game 1 turn 2) it promptly ran into a Naturalize, Manic Vandal or Assassinate almost immediately.  This in turn makes Steel Overseer incredibly hard to evaluate in the context of this deck.

1x Aether Adept - Another card that's probably better in a more tempo or aggro based decktype I mostly used the Aether Adept as a rewind button on my opponent's turn 4 or 5 drop creatures.  I'd bounce their Fattie back to their hands to buy a turn, then they'd have to recast it which bought me a turn and finally I'd chump block with the Adept for yet another turn.  This typically allowed me to get into *MY* endgame which I suspect you'll agree by the end of this list was always stronger.

1x Barony Vampire - It's really funny how much of a difference color and format changes can make.  In Zen/Zen/WWK drafts the R2 Goblin Roughrider was a pretty solid beater and worth picking after the "good" cards were gone.  Now here in M11 it's B2 counterpart is borderline worthless because there's no B/R aggro deck in the format to speak of.  In this deck the Barony Vampire was "just a body" and mostly made the cut because I ran out of better cards.

2x Liliana's Specter - Arguably Black's best common creature in the format; I really have no idea how I ended up with both copies of this card in my deck.  This is particularly shocking when you consider that I passed both of them early in pack 1 so I could take more powerful "Bombs".  Simply put there isn't a Control deck in existence that can't find a use for a 2/1 flying Ravenous Rat for 3 Mana.  I can only assume the double B mana symbols scared people off during the draft allowing me to snatch them up in the middle of the pack.  Either way card advantage and evasion for 3 mana is pretty strong in ANY limited format; even if the Specter trades poorly with Augury Owl/Squadron Hawk.

1x Clone -  When I got to my 3rd pick in pack 3 I was incredibly surprised to find myself looking at a copy of Clone.  While it's true there was no way for the two guys to my right to know what kind of bombs I'd already drafted by this point they should have known I was firmly in Blue based on the cards passed.  Simply put Clone enters the battlefield as a copy of the best creature in play on either side and as such has as much potential to be a bomb as ANY creature in the format.  You don't expect to find that kind of card in your color 3rd pick pack 3 but you certainly snatch the opportunity when presented.  I wont ruin the fun by telling you what I copied with Clone but lets just say copied the same creature 5 times and won all 5 games almost immediately.

1x Gravedigger - If Lilianna's Specter isn't the best Black common creature in M11 than Gravedigger most certainly is.  Graveyard recursion is powerful in Limited formats and the Digger is an efficient way to accomplish this; allowing you to trade creatures early and then generate real card advantage by returning them to your hand later.  Of course you can always save the Digger until later in the game to help replay your insane "Bomb" creatures once your opponent finally kills them.  *insert evil grin here*

2x Nightwing Shade - I'm not really a huge fan of the Nightwing Shade at this point in M11 drafting. It's not really a bad card and in limited numbers (read 1) it can help you grind out long control-ish games.  On a base level however it's a 5 mana 2/2 flyer and B1 for a +1+1 pump isn't exactly great value; even for a flyer.  If you aren't careful you can waste entire turns pumping up the Shade while your opponent develops towards a real endgame.  I was happy to add the 1st copy of this card to my deck but the 2nd copy was simply a matter of necessity once it became clear I didn't have enough "good" creatures.

1x Grave Titan - The centerpiece of the entire deck; I opened a first pack Grave Titan and immediately started forcing Black.  There was absolutely no way I was going to pick the best card in all of M11 Limited and then not play it.   I even made sure I shoved my way into Blue in the early stages of pack 1 as well just to ensure I'd get enough card draw to A) find and B) pay for my Grave Titan as often as possible.  This strategy was highly effective as I managed to cast "Gravey" in 5 out of the 6 games I actually played; sometimes multiple times!  Needless to say I won those games by producing crushing waves of Zombie tokens.

Spells - 9:

1x Doomblade - In my opinion Doomblade is easily the second most powerful removal spell in M11; being outclassed only by the superb Mind Control.  In fact you could make an argument that Doomblade is stronger than Mind Control simply because B1 is a lot easier to make than UU3.  Regardless it's pretty hard to argue with "B1: Smoke a Dude" and it's pretty rarely I'll pass a Doomblade if I can avoid it.  In this case 3 people disagreed with me as it was my 4th pick in pack 3.

1x Mana Leak - While I'm not generally a huge fan of counter-spells in Limited formats, I'm usually fine with having anywhere between 1-3 of them in a deck to support an otherwise strong control strategy.  The problem becomes when you rely too heavily on them as your only method of control; causing you to lack ways to deal with permanents your opponent manages to slip past/under your counters.  In this deck we have more than enough "real" control and ways to generate card advantage to "risk" running a single Mana Leak.  During the actual tournament it typically allowed me to counter my opponent's first real threat (turn 3 or 4ish) and thus buy more time to set up my own endgame.

1x Mind Rot - This is yet another card that I'm very fond of in limited quantities but would typically avoid playing more than 1-2 copies of total.  This is because Mind Rot is best played in the mid game when your opponent is sitting on 2-4 cards in hand and probably won't have easy discard choices.  This generally means that an opening hand Mind Rot will be a dead card for about 4 turns, while a Mind Rot drawn late in the game once your opponent is out of cards will be even more worthless.  Running too many copies of Mind Rot would virtually ensure you ended up drawing a dead one at some point in almost every game.  This happened to me once during the tournament after I'd dropped 3x Liliana's Specters (Gravediggered one back) and drew a late Mind Rot with my opponent on one card in hand.  He even managed to bluff me into *PLAYING* the Mind Rot, discarding a Plains while smiling/laughing at me.

1x Assasinate - Killing your opponent's creatures is pretty much always going to be a good strategy in Limited formats (and in general for that matter).  While I've often heard the complaint that Assassinate isn't as good as Doomblade I really don't pay it much regard.  Lightning Bolt is also inferior to Doomblade in my opinion and that hasn't stopped me from taking a Lightning Bolt yet.  You don't want to first pick an Assassinate but if you can get them between picks 3 and 6 you'll be quite happy with the results.  In a Control deck like this one Assassinate is even better since I will gladly trade a little bit of damage for yet another dead creature when you do attack me.

1x Foresee - It's likely that at some point people will eventually realize that Foresee is Blue's best common card in the entire set.  The ability to dig as far as 6 cards deeper into a 40 card draft deck isn't just broken; it's downright game warping.  I have never lost a game in which I've cast Foresee before turn 8ish and sooner or later other people in my playgroup will start to notice. Until that time however I will continue to gobble up 4th pick or later Foresees and continue to Scry my way to easy victories.  In the actual tournament this card was invaluable; helping me find my Grave Titan, more removal and even a Clone to seize control of multiple games.

1x Jace's Ingenuity - The other reason I was able to play my Grave Titan in 5 out of 6 games; Jace's Ingenuity made a pretty good backup to my Foresee.  In fact, in some situations Jace's Ingenuity was the better card simply because it let me draw 3 new cards rather than 2.  Having one of each card was ideal.

2x Mind Control - As regular readers of this blog know by now, I love me some Mind Control.  In fact I love this card enough that I first picked one of them in pack 2 and was then completely stunned to find myself looking at a second copy THE VERY NEXT PICK!  Sometimes you've got to be lucky to be good and stumbling into 2x Mind Controls like that was certainly heaping piles of both.  These two cards alone helped push this deck from "wicked strong" to "near unbeatable" in a matter of seconds; in many ways even moreso than the Grave Titan I was so happy to draft 1st overall.

1x Rise From The Grave - This card came incredibly late in pack 1, maybe as late as 8th pick I can't quite remember.  While Rise from the Grave is usually a good card in ANY Black deck with a couple of good removal spells it's absolutely insane in a deck where it can go fish out Grave Titan, Clone *or* your opponent's best dead creature.  I understand not picking in 1st-3rd but there's absolutely no excuse for this card lasting until pick 8 in pack 1.

18x Basic Land - With 7 cards that cost 5 or more I just didn't feel comfortable staying at 17 land like usual and I added an extra Island at the last minute to get to 18 land and 41 cards.  This was potentially a mistake considering the deck's overall dependence on Grave Titan/Mind Control but ultimate it didn't cost me any games in the tournament.

This is without a doubt one of the most broken control decks I have ever drafted, even if it has several cards that are either "out of place" or flat out "sub-par".  I didn't lose a game; drawing in the final round with my opponent primarily because it didn't change if I won or lost the tournament and I wanted to take a nap. While the deck was typically on the defensive for the first 10 or so life points, I never really got the sense I was ever in any danger of actually losing a game let alone an entire match.  Like most control decks, some patience and proficiency is required but it's really just a matter of identifying your opponent's real threats, neutralizing them and buying enough time to cast Grave Titan/Mind Control and/or Clone.

Continued in Part III




  1. Which Titan is your fav Titan? I've been going around asking this for the fun of it.

  2. I think it has to be Grave Titan. I mean Primeval Titan is pretty obviously powerful but I've never been a huge land based combo decks and I hate it when you opponents wreck my special lands. I've also grown respect for the Frost Titan over time, it's just hard to win against an opponent who plays one. The Grave Titan however is a path to victory all by himself and I'me a huge sucker for Black control strategies; the place Gravey works best.