Thursday, June 2, 2011

“Deceiver Exarch’s resume? YOU’RE DEAD.”

“Deceiver Exarch’s resume? YOU’RE DEAD.” – Mike Flores on Yo! MTG Taps

Last week I decided to sleeve up a budget, meaning no Jace the Mindscupltor, Blue Red Splinter Twin/Deceiver Exarch combo deck. After seeing Flores's result at TCG 5k or something I thought it was the real deal. And it is.

After a brief Twitter conversation regarding the deck, Flores convinced me that UR Twin is the best thing you can do in Standard right now. Going back and listening to Top 8 Magic and his Yo! MTG Taps podcasts, Flores states, “Against ExTwin, your opponent can’t tap out after turn 2. If they do they are dead.”

This is very true. I’ll discuss it in my FNM report after I list the deck.

A couple of other things I wanted to bring up as well: the idea of Overextended is real, Legacy is disgustingly awesome, and a loose invite by KYT of the Eh? Team and Crazy Talk, to write for Manadeprived and maybe get on the Crazy Talk cast. I'll discuss these issues in later blogs. :)

Let’s go to work.

Here is what I rocked at the last FNM:

Deceiver Exarch x 4
Spellskite x 2
Consecrated Sphinx x 1
Inferno Titan x 2
Seagate Oracle x 4
Jace Beleren x 4
Preordain x 4
Mana Leak x 4
Spell Pierce x 2
Splinter Twin x 4
Into the Roil x 4
Tectonic Edge x 3
Halimar Depths x 3
Terramorphic Expanse x 4
Islands x 7
Mountains x 8

Inferno Titan x 2
Manic Vandal x 3
Urbarask the Hidden x 1
Pyroclasm x 3
Spellskite x 1
Spell Pierce x 1
Flashfreeze x 4

The deck is very real and it truly is the best and most powerful thing you can do in Standard right now. The combo is very difficult to stop when played optimally and it can go off on turn 4 about 50% of your games. The combo works like this, Flash in Exarch at the end of your opponents turn 3. Untap on your turn 4, play Splinter Twin on Exarch and tap to make an Exarch haste token, which when it comes into play untaps the Twinned Exarch to repeat the process. You make infinite haste tokens and swing for the win.

The easiest way to disrupt the combo is kill the Exarch when Twin comes down to enchant it. There is a multitude of spot removal spells in Standard to do this. If played optimally you wait for your opponent to tap out or tap open mana at the end of their turn with Exarch so they don’t have the opportunity to kill your guy.

The nice thing about the deck is, as Flores puts it, rewards good plays and is so powerful if bad plays happen, it can still win. This is very true since during the evening I made TONS of bad plays and still came out with wins. Flores admits himself he made some bad plays on his way to a 1st place victory in NYC.

My thoughts on the deck were confirmed by Flores in his podcasts and on Twitter: 2 colors is more consistent then the Grixis and RUG builds AND you get to run 4 Tectonic Edges.

My build is very loose compared to Flores. I didn’t feel his miser Pilgrim’s Eye was worth a slot and I even cut down on 1 mana. I also ran a full set of Beleren and no JTMS. My reasoning, obviously not having JTMS, but also you want to be winning on Turn 4, not casting JaceTMS. Beleren got the job done for me. Also his very loose 1-of Misers sideboard seems odd to me. There is a sick Trinket Mage/Elixir of Immortality package when Twinning Trinket Mage you can keep popping and fetching Elixir every turn. But I  just upped the consistency of cards and played stuff to fight green cards since creatures run rampant in my metagame. If I could I probably would have played more closely to his deck. But I just threw it together the night before, played two sets of games prior to the start of the tournament, and tossed my sideboard together.

The maiden game I played was against a version of Ali Antrazi’s Mono-Blue Grand Architect deck piloted by Edward the TO. Edward decided to get back into Standard Magic after just strictly playing EDH for a long time. I put him onto the deck when it first spoiled because he was talking to me about some janky blue aggro deck with horrible cards. Game 1 he gets Spellskite down turn 3 and a Phyrexian Metamorph copying his Spellskite. With one Skite it is still doable if I can get runner runner Into the Roils and my combo pieces. But with two in play it is difficult to win. So I scoop and move to game 2. Game 2 I combo on his face turn 4 and despite playing blue he has no way of interacting with me save Skites. Game 3 the same thing happens. I EOT Exarch on his turn and win the following turn. I play a few games against Ian’s GW Chancellor Genesis Wave deck. Ian admits it is a total junk deck with cool synergies. Game 1 he ramps like a bastard into Primeval Titan and just out manas me while I dig for combo pieces. Games 2 and 3 I am able to Leak and Pierce his Waves and win with my combo.

Round 1: Lyle with Hawkward

Game 1: Hawkward is a Weenie creature strategy that uses angry cheap artifact dudes and Tempered Steel to get a sick advantage. It also uses Steel Overseer as its lord to pump its team. It is a very basic intro to magic strategy that gains tons from Scars of Mirrodin being an artifact block. This kid is pretty much a noob so I control his board pretty easily but can't put my combo together. I do Exarch combat shennanigans to stem the artifact dude beatdown, like Flash in, tap down, and block for value. I eventually dig for an Inferno Titan and own his face.

Game 2: I side in all of my Vandals and Pyroclasms as well as a full set up Titans. I take out all my counter magic because on the play I think they are too slow. He gets some early game I wipe his team. I get an Overseer that I Vandal. He rebuilds with 3 more dudes and I wish I slow rolled the Pyroclasm. But it is irrelevant because he has Tempered Steel out already. I EOT Exarch, untap, draw and reveal Splinter Twin, "We done?" I ask. Lyle, "Uh...I have this Dispatch with Metalcraft?" I scoop to his dominating board presence.

Game 3: Dispatch is a card I didn't think about and am kind of pissed I totally walked into it. I truly don't believe he really knew what was going on but it doesn't matter since I punted that game. I maybe could have won but I didn't want to grind it out. I was playing for blood now. I play depths and have all of my combo pieces lined up with a perfect curve to four mana, including two mountains. I combo turn 4. Good game noob. 

1-0 / 2-1

Round 2: Christian playing Mono-Black Midrange

Game 1: Christian is a good kid who I've played in previous FNMs. He truly wants to get better at the game and really wants to learn. Maybe I've found my new padawan learner? The reason I list his deck as Midrange is because it can swing both ways depending on the match up. Because I'm a pseudo-control deck he goes aggro. He has some early Duress effects and takes Jace Beleren. Fine choice IMO. He gets on the triple Phyrexian Rager plan and starts beating my face in. I'm at about 8 life and take a serious beating before I can stabilize. When he plays the new Juzam Djinn for BBBB I scoop. This game I was desperately searching for a combo piece. I had the Exarchs but had to play them early for combat tricks to stem the bleeding and buy more time. Even with Spellskite out to defend my Exarchs he had way too much creature hate and gigantic dudes like Lashwrithe and Obliterator. He closed in way too quickly. Not only was I searching for another Exarch but also a 2nd mountain to play Twin. Ugh.

Game 2: This game is ridiculous. I go Island and Preordain to sculpt my hand. He goes EOT Surgical Extraction paying 2 life and snags my Preordains. WTF?!? I think that was a good play since I had a Preordain in hand so he certainly go value. This game gets dragged out for a while he uses the new Duress effect for Creatures/Walkers to snag Inferno Titan and Surgical Extracts that as well. He also triple Evil Presences two mountains and an island so I have to sit there and dig for just lands. Its absurd. Luckily this game Into the Roil and Spellskite buy me time and card advantage to get my combo finally up and running for the win.

Game 3: The rubber match is highlighted by my horrible play with Spellskite. This game goes long and becomes an attrition match. His discard and Surgical Extractions versus my tempo spells and 2-for-1s. I'm able to Manic Vandal a Lashwrite and Inferno Titan some Phyrexian Ragers. I have a Spellskite out as well to defend my Titan. He plays Enslave (the new black control magic) on my Titan AND I DON'T DIRECT IT TO MY SPELLSKITE. Damn. I even go so far as to Into the Roil the Enslave to get my Titan back only to let him Enslave it yet again. And I don't redirect it to my Spellskite. Jeez. I eventually get out Urbarask the Hidden and swing in with him and Vandal. He plays Obliterator tapped and swings with Inferno Titan. He domes me for 3, which I direct at the Spellskite and chump with the 0/4 dude as well. On my turn I play another Inferno Titan with haste and attack with the team for 12 plus 3 to the dome for the win. Whew. Didn't even get a chance to use the combo.

2-0 / 4-2

Round 3: George with White Weenie Quest

Game 1: George is one of the older players in the room, including myself and Edward and Aaron. I'm guessing George is probably closer to 40 then he is 30. Regardless, he is a deckbuilder for sure. He usually comes with a different kind of deck and doesn't netdeck like some of us do, again myself included. He actually has a RG Aggro list that looks very interesting to me. George is playing Quest of the mono-white sort that maxes out on Stoneforgers and Puresteel Paladins to abuse the Metalcraft ability and Equip Argentum Armor for free. Sick. He grossly misplays early and swings into my Seagate Oracle with his Double Striking Kor only to let it die accidentally. This game goes long as he gets tons and tons of Equipment out including Sword of Body and Mind on a Menmite. I totally misplay as I Into the Roil the Menmite when he goes to attack but he punts and lets it happen. We both overlooked the fact the Menmite had Pro-Blue and kept on playing. This helps me setup some combat tricks with Exarch for value and Splinter Twin a few turns later for the win.

Game 2: I max out on Pyroclasms and Vandals to fight him. He plays turn 2 Stoneforge for Sword of Body and Mind. He then realizes he punted last game. I tell him it probably didn't matter and I had the combo anyways. This game he hits his Quest turn 1 and loads up the board with guys. He also has Phyrexian Revoker naming Deceiver Exarch. Shit. I'm on 2 Islands, 2 Mountains in play, an Into the Roil, Tec Edge, Island and the combo in hand. With his team of 4 guys I have options but could use a Pyroclasm. I pass the turn with no action. He gets his Quest to 5 by playing Puresteel Paladin but is not Metalcraft. He swings with his team and instead of doing combat tricks with Exarch or bouncing with Into the Roil I just take it. I'm cut in half at this point. I draw my card and its a Pyroclasm. I do a mental fist pump, play my Island and then the Pyroclasm. In response he activates and sacrifices his Quest for Argentum Armor and snap equips his Revoker. Its exactly what I wanted him to do. I pass the turn. He plays another Puresteel Paladin and equips the Sword onto it and attacks with his Revoker. Before combat I Flash in Exarch and tap down his Revoker so no Armor triggers happen and I don't take 8. I wonder why he didn't just equip the Revoker but in hindsight maybe he didn't want his Paladin to eat a Pyroclasm. Second main phase he only has 1 mana open. I untap, draw, play a land, Into the Roil his Revoker no kicker then play Splinter Twin on Exarch, make a million dudes and breath a sigh of relief. It was a hard fought match against George because he is a solid player and deck builder.

George picks up his cards and begins shuffling as I begin to de-sideboard. "I can't believe you're not going to give me game one." George says as he slightly shakes his head in minor disappointment. The last two games were a pain in the ass and grinding out wins with ExTwin is not easy. But I screwed up game one and he punted it away.

"Let's do an epic game three." I say. We both begin shuffling and I present my deck.

Game 3: He goes first with a Plains, Double Striking Kor and Menmite. I play Island a Preordain and set up a Pyroclasm on top that I draw. I also have an Manic Vandal and Exarch in hand and a Splinter Twin as my next draw. He plays Plains and Stoneforge Mystic and gets his Sword of Body and Mind trying to protect his dudes with Pro-Blue. I play Mountain and Pyroclasm to get sick 3-for-1 card advantage. He plays Tectonic Edge and Phyrexian Revoker naming Deceiver Exarch. I play Island and Manic Vandal his Exarch. He plays land, Puresteel Paladin and passes. I play a Mountain and pass. He plays a land, drops SoBaM, equips and I Flash in Exarch to tap his dude down before he can get protection from Blue.

"Do you have it?" Asks George. I shake my head "yes" and reveal the Splinter Twin. It took 3 games but I swept him to continue undefeated. We discuss the match and both know it was a great battle. Despite my epic misplay and his punt, I'm glad we took it to game 3 because I never want to be that guy that is a douche-bag and doesn't give him the win for that punt. He has been cool with me in the past for sure and us older players need to stick together.

3-0 / 6-3

Round 4: Aaron playing homebrew RB Midrange

Game 1: I've never played Aaron before but I've certainly seen him at FNMs before. He looks to be around my age bracket, maybe younger and has a wedding band. So I know he's not going to be a D-Bag because at least a chick can stand him enough to marry him. You can always trust the married Magic players because they at least have some maturity and sense of respect. He scouted my testing with Edward before FNM started so he knows I'm on ExTwin. He goes first and plays a swamp and an Inquisition of Kozilek. Exactly what I don't want to see since my hand is Island, Tectonic Edge, Mountain, Seagate Oracle, Jace Beleren, Mana Leak and Splinter Twin. He snags my Jace. Good call I think to myself since Jace is a house in most games for me. I draw Exarch, play Island and pass. He plays an awesome Chinese Dragonskull Summit and Nantuko Shade. "I'm glad I'm not the only one who plays Nantuko Shade in Vampires!" I say. He smirks and passes. I play my Mountain and pass. He plays swamp and swings. I accept the damage, he pumps to make it 3 damage total, plays a Hexmage and passes. I draw a Mountain and play Seagate Oracle, see an Island and Spell Pierce, keep the Island and pass. He plays a kicked Gatekeeper of Malakir, I sacrifice my Oracle and eat the damage. He is stuck on 3 lands and passes. I play my Tectonic Edge and blow up his Dragonskull, which we learn was a wedding gift from his buddy. Funny. At least they could have been foils! He draws, plays another swamp, now he has 3 lands no red and Inquisitions me again. I have Mana Leak. I go and draw another land, play it and pass with 2 blue and 2 red open. He draws, doesn't have the land, swings with his 3 dudes, I Flash in Exarch for combat tricks and tap down Nantuko Shade and go to declare my block to eat Hexmage. He pauses me and shows the Go for the Throat which I have the blow out Spell Pierce for. "Do you have Splinter Twin?" Aaron asks. I drop it on the table and he scoops.

Game 2: He makes the mistake and reveals what was floating in his hand: Moltensteel Dragon and Phyrexian Obliterator x 2 and a Lightning Bolt. I know he's not on Vampires anymore. He's on some crazy Midrange strategy. I side in Pyroclasms for the early game. He turn 1 Duress effects me and snags a Mana Leak. I turn 1 Preordain and sculpt my hand to now have both combo pieces and necessary land. He drops a Hexmage and passes. I play a Halimar Depths to sculpt even more. He plays a Sword of Feast and Famine and swings. I play a mountain and pass. He equips his sword and swings. I flash in Exarch and tap his dude down. I play a second red source and drop Splinter Twin for the win. Turn 4, you're dead. Crazy fucking deck.

4-0 / 8-3

Aaron and I play some friendly games. I play Vampires and dispatch him handedly. He is a good player, doesn't make mistakes and plays very tight, with no expression or discouragement. I'm the opposite (well, I'd like to think I'm a good player). I actually try to use bluff tactics like long sighs, shoulder slumps, exclamations of horrible draws, etc. just to throw my opponent off even though I have the nut. I'd like to think it makes them play worse or make unreliable decisions based on my body language and facial expressions.

Round 5: Austin rocking one of my favorites...Boros.

Game 1: I quickly ask Edward who is in first place. He says I am as the only undefeated. That feels good because its been a while since I have been undefeated. Austin and I agree to draw but I tell him we should play it out anyways and no matter the outcome, whether I win or lose, he'll let me win and I'll give him his fourth foil FNM Squadron Hawk ($10 value). If we draw I might not get first and he might not get a prize at all. Game 1 goes like this. He plays Steppe Lynx and passes. I play Island Preordain and sculpt. I now have all the pieces I need. He plays Shrine of Burning rage after a cracked fetch and swings. I'm at 16. I play a Mountian and pass. He plays a Sword of War and Peace which I Mana Leak. He cracks in for another 4. I'm at 12. I play an Island and pass. He plays yet another fetch, cracks and swings for another 4. I Flash in Exarch and tap his Lynx down. I go, play Mountain show him Splinter Twin and he scoops.

Game 2: We both decide to not board since he's giving me the win anyways. It is the same line of play but worse because he opens with Goblin Guide and just gives me the land I need to set up. By the end of his turn 4 I flash in Exarch, tap a red land for any shennanigans, and bust the Twin on my fourth turn for the win. The deck is that consistent and that sick. He didn't even interact with me at all and two games in row I go off on turn 4 without a hitch. Boros, or any aggressive strategy is garbage against a deck that will kill on turn 4. Damn. Austin is a good kid and getting incrementally good at the game at a very fast rate. He has graduated from Weenie White strategies to a more thinking man's aggro deck in Boros. Last time I faced him he was rocking Quest and I scooped to a turn 2 Argentum armor. So you can see why I wanted to draw.

5-0 / 10-3

We wait around for a bit and it turns out I do get first place being the only undefeated. Although Austin and decided he'd give me the win I still whooped his ass pretty good. And I feel good that I earned that last win. Even if we drew I'd still be first place I think. Do note that the ringers, i.e. guys with sick 1900 - 2000 ratings, were not there. But I think it wouldn't have mattered because ExTwin is the real deal. I go up to get my prize and I see the foil Squadron Hawk but I also see a buy-a-box Surgical Extraction. I take the rare of course and give Austin two packs, which I think is a good deal. What if he packed a fucking Batterskull!!! LOL.He was happy with that. I don't recall what he or I packed but it was a good night of Magic regardless and it feels good to be first place again. It has been a long time.

Hopefully next time some more Standard decks, some Legacy decks, talks about Overextended and modern and trying to get on Crazy Talk. What up?

"If you tap out or try to play any spell, YOU'RE DEAD."

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