Hello everyone! My name is Melissa DeTora and I'm happy to announce that I will be returning as a weekly writer for TCGplayer.com. For those who don't know me, allow me to introduce myself. I have been involved with Magic for eighteen years. During this time I have played in hundreds of Magic tournaments including about seventy Grand Prix and eighteen Pro Tours. I have a Pro Tour Top 8 to my name as well as a few Grand Prix Top 8s. While I was at the peak of my Magic career I was asked to work at Wizards of the Coast R&D on the Development Team. I took the opportunity, moved to Seattle, and spent the past year there.
I am no longer at Wizards and I'm now back in the world of MTG. I'm sure many of you are wondering what happened. The short version was that I was a contractor employee. When my contract was up at the end of the year there were no open positions in Wizards R&D and I was let go. It was pretty bad timing for both me and Wizards, but I'm remaining optimistic that I will be able to go back to Wizards when they have open positions.
What does this mean for you, dear readers? I'm back to playing Magic again. In addition to playing in Magic events I'll be writing weekly for TCGplayer as well as frequently for DailyMTG.com. You won't be seeing me on the Pro Tour, as I know pretty much everything about the next four sets and I would have a sizable advantage if I were to play. However, most Grand Prix are fair game and I'll even be at Grand Prix Oakland in a few weeks! I'm looking forward to getting back in the swing of things and playing competitive Magic again.
I have learned a lot in my time at Wizards and am eager to share what I have learned with you. Of course there is a lot I can't say, such as what's in the next sets, but I can share deckbuilding and Draft tips that I learned while playtesting with the Magic Development Team, which contains some of the most skilled players in the world.
In my first article back for TCGplayer I'm going to be talking about the first deck I brewed at Wizards. Let's get started!
On my first day at Wizards I was handed several Player's Guides for sets that hadn't been released yet. Then I was given access to a file of the current sets that were in Development. Let's just say that I was a quite overwhelmed, having access to so much information all at once, and pretty scared that I had to learn all of the cards in Fate Reforged, Dragons of Tarkir, Magic Origins, and Battle for Zendikar in a short period of time in order to do my job correctly. I never missed spoiler season so much; having access to only a few cards a day is so much easier to process than getting literally four sets thrown at me at once. I began looking through the Player's Guides in order to learn the sets and also figure out what decks to build.
The first card that caught my eye was Silkwrap. It was such a simple card and it made so much sense as a white removal spell. It was at a slightly lower rate than cards that were probably too strong for Standard like Journey to Nowhere (two-mana removal that can exile anything is good in all stages of the game) and Last Breath (likely to Remove the same cards as Silkwrap, but being instant is so much more valuable when you are also trying to counter spells or use instant card draw). Silkwrap was elegant and efficient and I knew it would go into many of my decks.
After reading through more cards I found the deck I wanted to build: Starfield of Nyx and Sigil of the Empty Throne. I mean, these cards were meant for each other! They were even in the same set! It was like Wizards was screaming at me to build this deck. After doing some searches and writing down a few notes I found myself with a list.
Note that this is not the actual list, because cards were still changing at the time. This list is slightly different based on today's metagame which means it's actually better than the list I originally built! However the premise is the same. This is an enchantment control deck that is looking to slow the game down with removal spells like Silkwrap and Stasis Snare. Planar Outburst can clean things up if they get out of control, and your win conditions are in the form of enchantments like Sigil of the Empty Throne and Starfield of Nyx. Jace, Vryn's Prodigy can filter out your draws because this deck requires very specific cards to win. While most of the cards speak for themselves, I will explain some card choices to give you a general idea of how the deck is played.
Silkwrap: This is our most important removal spell. They stop the early beatdown while also taking care of Standard's number one enemy, Jace, Vryn's Prodigy. There are so many early threats that Silkwrap is great at removing: Hangarback Walker, Anafenza the Foremost, Soulfire Grandmaster, and plenty of others.
Stasis Snare: This is the card I'm most surprised that no one is playing. It's no Banishing Light, but this is an instant removal spell that can hit creature lands! Instant speed is a valuable tool that white rarely has access to in Standard and this is the reason why white control decks usually play other colors. Making a 3/3 creature with a Starfield out isn't bad either.
Planar Outburst: Sometimes you just need to kill everything, and it's great to have access to this if your opponent Removes your Silkwrap or Stasis Snare.
Quarantine Field: Your spot removal will be taking care of the little guys but a late game Quarantine Field can Remove what the spot removal can't. Planeswalkers are the biggest problem for this deck and this card can Remove one for four mana. Casting this where X=2 is the sweet spot with this card however.
Jace, Vryn's Prodigy and Monastery Siege: There play a similar role in this deck. They help filter your draws and find you what you need. Many of the cards in this deck are situational. You're not going to need Silkwrap against Esper Dragons and you usually won't want Planar Outburst against a bunch of Planeswalkers. These cards allow you to get rid of these unnecessary cards while not giving up card advantage. The second or third copies of Monastery Siege can be set to Dragons so that when you are ready to cast a Starfield of Nyx, you're unlikely to get blown out by removal spells.
One thing to note about Jace in this deck is that we can't abuse his -3 ability. Most decks in today's Standard environment that play Jace always have something to flashback, whether it's Duress, Utter End, or even a sweeper, but this deck is only playing Jace as a Merfolk Looter. Once Jace is a Planeswalker we are trying to work up to his ultimate which is actually a legitimate way to win the game, and we can stall long enough where that is a reasonable goal to work towards.
Negate: Negate may seem weird here, but it plays two crucial roles. The first is that this deck doesn't really have great ways to deal with Planeswalkers, so Negate acts as a cheap removal spell for them which is something that Dispel can't do. The second thing is that you're playing a control deck with a combo finish in Starfield of Nyx. Playing a Starfield makes you very vulnerable to your opponent's creature removal that was previously dead. Having a Negate in hand when you cast your Starfield gives you an insurance policy when you're going for the win.
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar: This card really does it all and, while it's not really a necessary piece of the deck's game plan, it can act as an "oops, I win card." Sometimes you will churn out 2/2 creatures and win with those. Sometimes you will animate him and your opponent will have no answers. There will even be the rare occasion where you will make an emblem followed by a Starfield the next turn and that one extra power and toughness on all your creatures will make a difference.
Mastery of the Unseen: This is probably the most important support card in the deck because it buys you enough time to draw into your Sigil or Starfield. It's also really important in the control matchups. One problem that this deck can have is that it has no clock, but Mastery of the Unseen can change that.
There are two main win conditions here: Starfield of Nyx and Sigil of the Empty Throne, however you will win with Sigil far more often than you will win with Starfield. Sigil speaks for itself. Once it's on the battlefield, each enchantment you cast will produce a threat and eventually you will overwhelm your opponent with card advantage. Starfield on the other hand is a win condition sometimes, but often it is a liability more than anything, and you'll have to play correctly to get the best use out of it.
How is Starfield a liability? If you cast a late game Starfield and then attack for a ton of damage with your newly-made creatures, many bad things can happen. Your opponent can kill a Silkwrap and then block with his new creature. Your opponent could also kill an enchantment and thus turn off all of your creatures that you were relying on to block with.
Starfield is best when you play it as your fourth enchantment. When you untap with it, you can usually return an enchantment to play that previously died or that you discarded to Jace. Untapping with Starfield also gives you the option to keep Negate up so that when you decide to turn your enchantments into creatures you will have some protection. The point I'm making here is that you don't want to jam a Starfield and then attack. You have to play smart and assume your opponent always has the card to blow you out.
Lastly, there is one Dragonlord Ojutai in the list because sometimes he is just a four-turn clock, simple as that.
The Sideboard and General Matchup Guide
We have a really sweet control matchup after sideboard. The control matchup can be the most difficult because we have so many dead cards in our deck for game one. Monastery Siege and Jace can lessen the blow but there will be times where you draw nothing but Silkwraps and Planar Outbursts and your relevant cards just get countered.
The plan for control is to bring in the third and fourth Negate and a pair of Dispels. These cards help us resolve our crucial enchantments. While we have a lot of support cards that are important to resolve, our main win conditions cost five mana. This is where Sphinx's Tutelage comes in. This card is a sweet one against decks that are playing the control game. It really provides a fast clock and is cheap enough to get through countermagic. If you are able to resolve a Monastery Siege along the way, the clock is doubled.
The Atarka Red matchup is also quite worrisome especially when they are playing Hordeling Outburst. Everything we do is one-for-one so one card that provides three creatures is bad news for us. We bring in another Planar Outburst and some Surge of Righteousness, but these cards alone are not enough to beat Atarka Red. This is the matchup where Starfield of Nyx is our best friend. Atarka Red can't really deal with a board of 2/2s and 3/3s, and you are usually happy to trade your Silkwraps for their Become Immenses (the Silkwraps usually only got a Goblin Token anyway). Stasis Snare can be a beating against them when they are about to "combo off" with Temur Battle Rage. Overall the matchup is tough but winnable.
Midrange matchups are where this deck shines. You are happiest when your opponent is playing Mantis Riders and Siege Rhinos. Your opponents will have hands full of removal that you can easily play around, and Sigil of the Empty Throne is bad news for these decks. As you can see we don't have much of a sideboard for these matchups because they are already pretty good, just some better removal and another Dragonlord Ojutai.
What Didn't Work
One card that I tried for a while was Myth Realized. This card definitely has its moments, but it's literally the last thing you want in play when you're ready to cast a Starfield. It will end up being a permanent 1/1 that you can pay W to turn into a larger creature. Overall it's a very low impact card and not worth the slot in your deck.
Another version I tried was a heavier Counterspell variant in an attempt to make the control matchups better. I played a package of Clash of Wills and Scatter to the Winds as well as some card draw like Ugin's Insight. While the deck worked, it was diluted of enchantments which caused major problems. Both Sigil of the Empty Throne and Starfield of Nyx were much worse with fewer enchantments in the deck. Overall, if you want to play a heavier Counterspell version, you are better off playing a traditional U/W Control deck or Esper Dragons and leave the enchantments at home.
So you might be asking if this deck is actually good. Well, while most of the games I played with this deck were internal and many of the cards were different, I can say that I played at least four matches with this deck on Magic Online and won all of them! Those are some great results if I do say so myself.
But seriously, this deck is worth taking for a spin; not only is it super fun, but what's better than winning with Opalescence and Replenish packed into one card?
That's it for this week. TCGplayer is taking a break for the holidays so you will probably not see anything new from me (or anyone) for a couple weeks, but stay tuned for more content from me both here and on Daily MTG. Feedback is welcome in the comment section below and I will also welcome feedback on Facebook and Twitter.
Thanks and see you in Oakland!