Seb is back on the blog with a piece about a somewhat underplayed card in Premodern. But before that, let me take the time to promote the Premodern Online Play Facebook group, for those of you itching to play some Premodern in these stay-at-home days. Cheers! / Martin
Let us dive into a brewing session with a fair but very powerful card in Premodern, namely Phyrexian Arena. The most common deck using Phyrexian Arena must be Deadguy Ale. The main reason might be that there are many efficient answers in black and white and if you opt to play a card like Phyrexian Arena, you usually set out to win mid-range. The BW archetype is a bit slow, so when this deck really shines is when it empties your foe’s hand and keeps answering the board at the same time.
The longer you wait, though, keep in mind the Arena fee. Gerrard’s Verdict is a key-card here in my opinion. It empties the opponent’s hand and gains life. I usually tend to sit on a couple of lands in my hand in case I will be in dire need of some extra life and need to direct the Verdict on myself.
Vindicate is sweet with Gerrard’s Verdict, since the opponent might discard lands instead of actual spells and then you might get him if you destroy one of his lands. Duress usually let’s us know if this is a viable plan. So, the big 1-2-3 punch is usually these cards used alongside Phyrexian Arena, in a Deadguy Ale build. Disruption and land destruction were key back in 2005 when Chris Pikula went to the finals of GP Philly sporting 2 Gerrard’s Verdict 4 Duress, 4 Hymn to Tourach, 4 Vindicate, 4 Wasteland and 4 Sinkhole. These spells also give us an insight to why and what the archetype really wants to do.
In the February edition of the Premodern Online Monthly tournament, Joe Zubeck managed to to make top 8 piloting a version of Deadguy Ale. Joe’s build on the aggressive end of the spectrum, with a fairly low mana curve and two copies of Phyrexian Arena to fill up the hand. Dark Ritual is what really makes this deck shine. When I started fiddling with BW Arena, my instinct took me to a much slower build, using Exalted Angel instead of Phyrexian Scuta and with other morph creatures such as Headhunter and a miser’s Bane of the Living. The morph-part of the setup was very fun, but the deck was too slow. Still, I can see an argument being made for having Headhunter alongside with the Hypnotic Specters if we go more aggressive. Deadguy Ale is rather needy on the mana, having a lot of BB spells or even BW spells. Caves of Koilos and Tainted Field gets you there, but it is hard to fit in cards such as Mishra’s Factory or Wasteland. Gabriel Farkas wrote a sweet piece on Deadguy Ale last year and he is way more proficient on giving you the way around what the deck does, so check it out if this is where you want to be.
However, if you are interested in playing other color combinations, I will give you the ins and outs and walk you through playing Phyrexian Arena with swamps and mountains. When testing out different builds I actually found BR to be very powerful. Starting out, the manabase is somewhat better, having fetches and Sulfurous Springs alongside Shadowblood Ridge. That made me start out with Wasteland. Going forward, though, since we are playing red, I noticed that having the extra damage potential from Mishra’s Factory is better, hence going from a 4–0 split, to 4–2 and ending up with 2–4 in the favour of Mishra’s Factory over Wasteland. That also gave us the ability to play more expensive spells such as Siege-Gang Commander. One version of the deck had Rorix Bladewing but that ended up being way to clunky (I might have had a weak moment when I also tried out Urza’s Rage). Siege-Gang Commander gives us reach and leaves some men behind if he is killed. Regarding being killed, the miser’s Flametongue Kavu can be very good or very bad depending on the meta. Sitting there with it stranded in your hand against Stasis might feel bad, I get it, but Terminate doesn’t really shine then either. I like creatures that do what a spell could do since we need to squeeze in every point of damage we can. With that in mind, Flametongue Kavu is probably better than Nekrataal.
Void is another cool card. It’s expensive to cast but gives you versatility and opportunity to pick off cards in your opponents hand. Perhaps Cursed Scroll should be another Grim Lavamancer. As you can tell, I am not sure about these three cards. But if you dont play ’em you’ll never know! Right?
The sideboard is not opted, I fear. Depending on what you are thinking you’ll face when playing this deck, put in Shattering Pulse, Null Rod and Coffin Purge, Withered Wretch or even Dystopia. Engineered Plague is probably better than Pyroclasm but I’ll leave all of that up to you.
Until next time,
As usual, feel free to discuss in the Premodern social media channels.