Yes, you read the title right: Caw-Blade.
A couple years back I had the pleasure of doing coverage for Grand Prix Dallas. This was a Standard event that took place in the midst of Jace, the Mind Sculptor's reign. In fact the Top 8 was pretty mind numbingly groundbreaking: it included an unprecedented 32 copies of Jace, the Mind Sculptor and 32 copies of Preordain. That meant that every deck in the Top 8 (which was an exact split of four copies of Caw-Blade and four copies of RUG Midrange) had the full suite of each card.
While this was a ridiculous occurrence and my most vivid memory of the Caw-Blade-dominated Standard format, the deck we're taking a look at today is void of such monsters of the past. While the Modern format does not have access to such demons as Stoneforge Mystic, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and Preordain, we still have plenty of Counterspells available to us in the form of Remand, Mana Leak, Spell Snare, and Cryptic Command, while also being able to summon multiple "caws" and equipping them with things like Sword of Feast and Famine or Sword of Fire and Ice.
As you can see, the deck has a couple different angles it can attack from, including a little Trinket Mage package, but really, the Trinket Mages are just extra bodies to carry Swords. Let's take a look at how the deck performs, then we'll talk some more about the choices.
Caw-Blade vs. RUG Delver
Caw-Blade vs. American Control
Caw-Blade vs. Takin' Turns
Caw-Blade vs. Affinity
I think the biggest mistake we made was discarding the Sword of Fire and Ice in favor of the Sword of Feast and Famine in the match against RUG Delver. Traditionally Sword of Feast and Famine was the go-to equipment card for Caw-Blade (after all, it was the best Sword that was legal during Caw-Blade's reign). It not only allowed you to blow the opponent out of the water, tempo-wise, but it also made sure you retained card advantage. The thing is though Sword of Fire and Ice gives our little birds protection from both of their removal colors in the form of red and blue. So no Lightning Bolting or Vapor Snagging could occur once the Sword was in place. This would also replace the discard with a card draw, and also allow us to kill their Vendilion Cliques with the trigger: something we were unable to do with Sword of Feast and Famine as they would simply be blocked by the Vendilion Cliques. I think this would have efficiently put us on the offensive, but I guess we'll never know for sure. Considering two of our Hawks were simply blocked by blue creatures though, I have a good feeling.
One card we kept wanting to add was Elixir of Immortality. This card would not only be a great one to fetch up against the burn decks (essentially costing them two cards), but it would also be a great way to reshuffle back in all the Squadron Hawks that end up biting the dust. We can even search for it again if we manage to draw our second Trinket Mage or end up bouncing our first with something like a Cryptic Command. There were multiple times when all we wanted was another Squadron Hawk or two to search up and equip with a Sword, but alas, they had all been slain. Furthermore, we were never that excited to draw the current two targets: Aether Spellbomb and Relic of Progenitus. Sure, they have their uses, but they're very limited. I think in Modern especially, which is so open, I would prefer to have one Pithing Needle and one Elixir of Immortality. Just like in Standard, Elixir also allows us to shuffle all of our Counterspells back in as well, and a Cryptic Command reload is nothing to scoff at.
Another card that some of the other UW control decks are running - and one that Caw-Blade was known for - was Gideon Jura. I think the deck could actually use one Gideon Jura, and maybe something like one Sphinx's Revelation as well. We have a ton of lands in our deck, but nothing that costs more than four mana. We could also always use the removal and "fog" effect that Gideon provides to good effect. If we weren't thrilled with the Trinket Mage package, I would definitely recommend the following changes:
-1 Aether Spellbomb-1 Darksteel Citadel-1 Relic of Progenitus-2 Trinket Mage
+1 Gideon Jura+1 Mistveil Plains+1 Snapcaster Mage+1 Sphinx's Revelation+1 Vendilion Clique
This would not only give us a couple more threats to replace the Trinket Mages, but it would also give us a Mistveil Plains to Recycle our Squadron Hawks over time. Snapcaster Mage was a card that I could not understand why we didn't have four-of in the deck, especially with both equipment and a ton of Counterspells. This is nearly the perfect deck for the Tiago Chan Invitational card.
My one concern is that this version leaves us with fewer artifacts to discard to Thirst for Knowledge; despite that, the deck should be able to generate enough card advantage to pull ahead regardless. We also left in the single Academy Ruins, just in case we do end up needing to discard a Sword or a Batterskull.
Either way, I'm not sure these changes will make the deck better, per se, but I'm trying to shore up some of the flaws we found when piloting it. Basically we rarely wanted to actually cast the Trinket Mages as they were simply too low-impact, and they often required us to let our guard down in a deck that runs some thirteen Counterspells.
I think this deck falls in line with most of the other UW-based control decks, so if you're looking for something like that - a deck that's reminiscent of the old Standard days where you got to play 1/1 fliers, fill up your hand, and equip them with Swords - give it a try. That's all I have for today, but be sure to check back on Thursday as I show off the GW Enchantress deck that Tomoharu Saito proposed a week or so back! Thanks for reading and I'll catch ya in a few.
Frank Lepore@FrankLepore on TwitterFrankLepore on TwitchTV